Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles

Is there anyone with a soul who doesn’t love a soap bubble.

Endlessly fascinating, these simple shapes are beautiful, surprising, simple little things.

One of the most common questions on BIG chat is “what is the best recipe for great bubbles?:

The answer depends on what you want to do with them. But the following is a good rule of thumb

1 Part glycerine

100 parts washing up liquid

1500-2000 parts water.

By far the biggest ingredient is water. Bubbles are made of water, the detergent lowers the surface tension of the water making it more elastic.

A bubble film can be thought of as a sandwich. The filling is water, the bread is formed from the soap, the hydrophillic heads attracted to the water, their tails in the air.

If you add more soap to the mix you will reach the Critical Micelle Concentration where the detergent molecules move from the surface and form small units in the bulk of the water. This means increasing the amount of detergent wont actually affect your solution very much, as the extra detergent is just drawn into the micelles.

If your bubbles aren’t performing well, you can almost always improve things by adding more water. Bubbles will burst when the water evaporates, glycerine is added to slow this process down. For very long lasting bubbles, use more glycerine. Blow small bubbles and cover them with a lid. I have had bubbles last 30 minutes or more with this method.

For very large bubbles, use more water and increase the humidity by spraying water around the bubble.

I briefly held the world record for number of people in a bubble,

For this very large bubble. The hoop was a 2m diameter copper ring. The Mixture was:

2 parts Glycerine

100 parts fairy liquid

2500 Parts water

The record is now 59 people and held by Dr Robyn Wheldon-Williams of Bangor University 

The colour of bubbles is related to their thickness. As the bubbles becomes thinner and thinner, the colours will change. if you are lucky you may see a bubble turn black, as it becomes thinner than the wavelength of visible light. Try blowing bubbles over a light box to see rings of colours around a bubble.

You can fill bubbles with any number of gases, making flaming butane bubbles is fun, Helium bubbles that drift to the ceiling are awesome.

You can see the wonderful Mike Coles Blowing some CO2 bubbles here

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3 Responses to Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles

  1. Rob Wix says:

    I remember (about 15 years ago) that the best bubble mix was made from Joy or Dawn washing up liquid, from Australia! Does anyone know if it’s still available?

    • 53ideas says:

      Joy was a US liquid, which we used to buy from a place which imported it. it was (is?) good. but i’m not convinced it is much better than fairy. Having said that, avoid anything pearlescent. Bubble Maestro Tom Noddy only ever uses the little tubs of bubble juice, though he only blows pretty small bubbles. So doesn’t need the volume. In the hugely unreadable “soap bubbles, their colors and the forces which mold them” C.F Boys gives a recipe involving fresh rainwater and a 2 day process using Oleate of Soda. Which though apparently abundant in 1890 was hard to get hold of in 1911

  2. Pingback: Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles | It's those little things….. inn university

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