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The Amazing World of Bubbles

Brennen, Christopher E. (2007) The Amazing World of Bubbles. Engineering and Science, 70 (1). pp. 30-41. ISSN 0013-7812.

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Bubbles come in all sizes, shapes, and forms, but let’s begin with a very simple one. A bubble is a small pocket of vapor inside a liquid. This happens because the molecules have crossed the line separating the liquid zone from the vapor zone. Engineers and scientists like to depict this in a phase diagram, which is simply a graph that shows you whether a substance is a solid, a liquid, or a gas—or any combination thereof—at various temperatures and pressures. Increase the temperature, and the liquid boils. It forms bubbles. If you lower the pressure, a phenomenon called cavitation occurs. The resulting bubbles are essentially the same, but the consequences are not—when your teakettle boils, the bubbles don’t tear it apart, but cavitation can turn steel into Swiss cheese. The difference is that bubbles formed at high temperatures contain a lot of heat and collapse relatively slowly. But if you cross the line down near the triple point, where solid, liquid, and vapor can coexist, the vapor contains very little heat, allowing the bubbles to collapse quite rapidly and very violently. What matters is not so much how you cross the liquid-vapor line, but where you cross it.

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Additional Information:This article was adapted by Douglas Smith from a Watson lecture given November 6, 2006.
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Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130722-125628618
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:39496
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Jul 2013 20:06
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 05:07

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