Revealing the Behaviour of Bubbles

By Selina Haefeli

Foamy physics predicts the popping patterns of bubbles.

Most of us—at some time or another—have pondered the mysterious beauty of bubbles. The glistening, transparent spheres jiggle and burst in a seemingly random fashion, but two mathematicians at the University of California in Berkeley think the process is not as random as we might believe and have uncovered the properties of bubbles that cause foam to break down.

The researchers devised a computer model that simulates the evolution of bubble break down. They demonstrated the process consists of three stages. In the first stage the structure of foam is rearranged due to surface tension and the flow of air, which causes the individual bubbles to move around until they finally settle. Then liquid drains from the thin, bubbly membranes and finally, when the membranes become super thin, the bubble pops.

The researchers suggest that their computer model will help other scientists in the pursuit of many useful applications including the development of better fire retardants, bicycle helmets and foam-based cleaning products.

Source: [University of California]