Science Fun in the Snow!

Frozen Bubbles

No matter how young or old you are, making bubbles with soapy water is always fun. But what happens if you make these bubbles in the winter? Note that this experiment requires an outdoor temperature below -15oC.

Why?

Why not simply mix water and soap? Because the solution isn’t thick enough to produce good surface tension. It is surface tension that allows the solution to form a bubble.

Materials

  • soapy water in a bottle
    • To make soapy water that will produce nice, solid bubbles, combine:
      • 125 ml liquid dish soap
      • 125 ml corn syrup
      • 750 ml hot water
    • Mix and let cool.
  • bubble wand

Method

  1. Dress warmly.
  2. Head outside with your bubble mixture and wand.
  3. To produce bubbles, dip the bubble wand in the soapy water, to cover it with a thin film of liquid, then wave the wand slowly.
  4. Try to catch bubbles with the bubble wand.

What happened?

Some bubbles will freeze instantly, while others will freeze slowly. If you are careful, you can sometimes hold a bubble in your hands without bursting it. Why are the physical properties of frozen bubbles so different?a frozen bubble

A bubble is formed by a layer of water molecules trapped between two fine layers of soap molecules. When it is very cold, and the bubble wand is waved very slowly, the water layer freezes before the bubble can burst.

If you make a bubble by blowing into the wand, the bubble takes more time to set. The air in the bubble has been warmed by your lungs, and when this warm air comes into contact with cold air it contracts, and the surface of the bubble sets slowly.

In both cases, the layers of soap freeze, making the walls of the bubble more solid. After a few seconds or a few minutes, the air captured inside the bubble disperses to the exterior, like a balloon deflating, and the wall of ice collapses under its own weight. Look at the frozen soap wall of a bubble — it looks like a broken eggshell.


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