French physicists have figured out a way to extend the usually short lives of bubbles.
University of Lille physicists published findings Tuesday in the journal Physical Review Fluids, recounting how they extended the “fragile and ephemeral” lifetime of a single bubble to a mind-blowing 465 days.
The typical bathtub or dish soap bubble lasts just moments before popping due to the “gravity-induced drainage and/or the evaporation of the liquid” inside the sphere, according to the study’s authors.
But when researchers formed bubbles with a high concentration of glycerol — a compound commonly used in a host of foods and medicines — the compound was highly effective in staving off the sphere’s inevitable death by pop. One bubble apparently lasted for 465 days.
“The team says that the increased longevity of the water-glycerol marbles comes from the stabilizing effects of the glycerol,” according to a synopsis of the French team’s work published by the American Physical Society.
“Glycerol has a strong affinity with water and is known to absorb water from air. The team thinks that this absorption of water compensates for evaporation, while the presence of the particles prevents drainage of water from the shell, both of which are known causes of bubble rupture.”
While the French bubble achievement could seem needless to a layman, New York University math professor Leif Ristroph said there could be some very real applications to be drawn here.
Ristroph, who specializes in fluid dynamics and has studied the science of bubbles, said any number of researchers in medicine and consumer products always want to know more about ways to fight evaporation.
“I could imagine that the general problem of preventing evaporation could have many practical applications. A good example is literally right before our eyes: The film of tear fluid covering the eye surface is microscopically thin and would vanish in no time if it weren’t for big molecules called lipids,” he said in a statement to NBC News on Friday.
“I’m daydreaming here, but I could imagine it might be useful to ‘armor’ little droplets in aerosols and sprays to make them last longer in air. For example, some sort of medicine that’s administered by spraying and breathing in the aerosol.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if this French super bubble set any kind of world mark.
Guinness World Records maintains a host of bubble-related records, such as tallest free-standing bubble (35.25 feet), longest free-standing bubble (105 feet) and largest bubblegum bubble (20 inches in diameter) blown.
But longest-lasting bubble did not appear to be on the list and a Guinness official could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.