Science for Kids: How to Make More Durable Bubbles

Bubbles are fun and fascinating. Children – and sometimes even adults – enjoy these chemical wonders as their nature brings a smile to people’s faces. Bubbles are the product of simple chemical reactions primarily produced by soap and water.

Simple and fleeting, it’s interesting to know that there is some interesting science going on in bubbles. How do they float? Why are they so perfectly round? Why are they crystal clear? Why are some bubbles more fragile than others?

When you start asking yourself these questions, you’ll be surprised to discover that there’s more to these amusing chemical wonders than meets the eye. Through a quick and easy experiment, you’ll be able to find what factors make bubbles the dreamy enigmas that they are. You will find the answers to many of your questions and discover the best way to create more durable bubbles.

What Are Bubbles?

Bubbles have a special place in just about anyone’s child. It’s been such a wonderful part of everyone’s childhood that it’s left its own mark on pop culture through TV shows and other media.

Basically, bubbles are simply air trapped within a soap film. This soap film is a mix of soap and water or other liquids. Soap molecules make up the surface – the thin and clear layer that traps the air inside – of a bubble. Between these soap molecules is a thin layer of water. Imagine a sandwich with soap molecules making up the outer layer and inner layer and water in the middle. These elements work together to make sure that the water stays inside.

Bubble Science

There are a number of scientific concepts at work as bubbles maintain their form. Bubbles look the way they are through concepts like elasticity, surface tension, chemistry, and a couple of other scientific properties.

Through this experiment, you will be able to observe, experiment, and investigate bubbles to gain a better understanding of their unique properties. This project will have you follow a recipe for bubble-making and manipulate its properties, allowing you to make observations on what makes bubbles more durable, lighter, and more vibrant.

Why Are Bubbles Round?

Generally speaking, bubbles can come in a variety of shapes. When a bubble is blown, it does its best to mold itself into the smallest possible shape it can take. The tension on the bubble then shrinks to the smallest possible form as it contains the air within it.

So no matter how hard you try to create any goofy shape, bubbles eventually recede into a sphere. This is because, among all the shapes of the world, the sphere has the least surface area relative to volume.

Why Are Bubbles so Fragile?

Bubbles pop quite quickly upon touch or landing on surfaces. Why does this happen?

Remember how we compared the surface of bubbles with sandwiches? When this line of soap film surface tears or evaporates, the air within it escapes, and the bubble pops. To alter the durability of bubbles, you can manipulate the mixture that constitutes the surface. You can use all sorts of ingredients to control the bubble’s properties.

This is what this experiment is about. How do you make more durable bubbles? What ingredients make them more durable and long-lasting? It’s time to experiment with some bubbles!

Project Proper

This science fair project is fairly easy. The experiment is beginner-friendly and safe, but for younger scientists, parental guidance is still required.

For the science fair, you can submit this project under chemistry. All you need for the project is a full day. If you feel like your schedule is a bit jampacked, you can use a lot more time than that. Just make sure to keep track of progress to avoid compromising the integrity of your materials.

Bubbles are always fun. For this experiment, you will be testing how certain materials or chemicals make bubbles better or worse.

What Makes Bubbles More Durable?

What makes bubbles more durable?

Surface tension, a scientific concept that describes the invisible bond that holds water molecules together, is the secret to a more durable bubble. Contrary to misconception, water isn’t exactly the material that holds the skin of the bubble intact. In fact, water’s surface tension is too strong to make a bubble. You can give it a quick observation by trying to blow a bubble with water alone — it won’t work.

To create bubbles, a detergent needs to be added to water to relax its surface tension. This will make the solution more elastic, giving it stretchy properties. These more elastic and stretchier properties allow the solution to act like the skin of balloons, able to stretch out thin and flexible. The elastic material that keeps the surface together through surface tension then traps air inside the thin lining, creating the bubble.

Surface Tension

According to Brittanica, surface tension is the property of liquid surfaces that acts as if they were a stretched elastic membrane. This can easily be observed in the shapes of small drops of liquids or bubbles. It is the property that allows this shape to be possible and prevents the liquid from spreading uncontrollably.

You can also observe this liquid property by gently placing a needle on top of the water. You’ll notice how the surface keeps the needle from sinking, acting as a blanket wrapping itself around the object. Some insects like water striders and other bugs also use this property to navigate through water surfaces. However, if external forces push down on these insects or needles, surface tension can break, causing them to sink.

Elasticity

Elasticity is another property of matter that describes its ability to return to its original shape from a deformed shape. To remove deformation and exhibit elasticity, the forces causing the change must be removed. To some extent, most solid materials are elastic. 

Detergent

In the context of chemistry, detergents are surfactants or a mixture of surfactants that have cleansing properties. Surfactants are compounds that have the ability to lower surface tensions between liquids; gasses and liquids; and between liquids and solids.

There are a wide variety of detergents, but the most common detergents around are alkylbenzene sulfonates. Alkylbenzene sulfonates are a family of soap-like compounds that are highly soluble in hard water.

The Materials

You can find most of the resources you need for this science fair project at home. There are a few that will need a quick trip to the hardware store or the grocery store, but none of these materials would be out of any person’s reach. This experiment won’t cost too much. Around $20 to $50 will get you all that you need for carrying out the experiment and recording your findings.

This experiment will focus on two primary resources: glycerin and corn syrup. These two ingredients will act as the manipulated variables, meaning you’ll be using these materials to alter the results of the product.

To create a varied assortment of mixtures to test on, here are some of the resources you’ll need for the experiment:

  • Glass Jars with Lids (preferably mason jars but recycled jars work just as great)
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Distilled Water
  • Detergents such as liquid dishwashing soap (like Joy or Dawn)
  • A Small Bottle of Glycerin
  • Light Corn Syrup
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Permanent Marker
  • Stopwatch

If you’re unsure where to find glycerin, they’re usually available at drugstores or pharmacies. For the glass jars, it’s important that they have a lid. Mason jars work best for this experiment, but recycled jars work just as nicely. Prepare at least five pipe cleaners for this project as it is a vital part of the experiment’s methodology and design.

Experiment Proper

The experiment revolves around creating multiple versions of the bubble solution. To have different results in terms of bubble durability, you may create four different solutions for the experiment.

The basic ingredients are water and detergent. The first solution will only consist of these two. Since these two ingredients and the overall volume of the solution (285 mL) will be independent variables, this first solution will be given an additional 15 ml of water to make up for 15 ml of glycerin and detergent that are to be mixed in the other solutions.

The second solution will be a mix of water, detergent, and glycerin. Then, the third solution is water, detergent, and corn syrup. Finally, the fourth solution will be a mix of all these materials.

The ingredients and their quantities are as exhibited below:

IngredientSolution 1Solution 2Solution 3Solution 4
Water255 mL240 mL240 mL240 mL
Detergent30 mL30 mL30 mL30 mL
Glycerin15 mL7.5 mL
Corn Syrup15 mL7.5 mL

Creating the Bubble Solution

Mix your ingredients together, creating four different solutions following the measurements as shown in the table above. Once you finish mixing the bubble solutions, store each of the materials in mason jars. Make sure to label each solution as your findings have to be organized according to results.

For this experiment, you can use dishwashing liquid such as Joy or Dawn for optimal results. Observe proper measurements, reaching the required total volume for each solution. Carefully use the measuring cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons as you concoct the combinations.

Testing Phase

To test the durability of the bubbles you create, you’ll need to create a wand for your experimentation. Using the pipe cleaners, create the wand you need for the bubble-blowing activity. Find the middle point of the pipe cleaner and twist a half portion into a small ring. You will be using this ring for blowing bubbles and testing their durability.

Repeat this action on four other pipe cleaners (one will serve as an extra in case you need it) and ensure that the rings are of the same diameter. Once all the wands are ready, it’s time to go outside and blow some bubbles.

Measuring the Results

The test is a bit tricky. You might need some practice, so you may want to prepare some extra bubble solutions. Blow a bubble and catch it on your wand. The moment the bubble lands on the wand, start your timer and record how long the bubble lasts without external factors interfering with its lifespan.

You will repeat this experiment for all the solutions, executing at least five trials for each of the specimens. It’s important to measure your results many times as several factors affect the bubbles’ lifespans. However, make sure that if you test the first solution ten times, you must also test the rest of the solutions the same amount of times. The more tests you can do, the better.

After testing, solve for the average amount of time it takes for the bubbles to pop. Record your data in a table similar to the one below:

TrialSolution 1Solution 2Solution 3Solution 4
Trial #1
Trial #2
. . . . . . .
Trial #20
Total
Average Bubble Time in Seconds

Assess the results of the experiments. Find the average bubble time in seconds and evaluate which solution produces the best results. In this case, the best performance is whichever solution produces the longest average bubble time in seconds.

Graph your results so they can be presented at the science fair. You can choose to make a bar about the average time or each of the trials. After an analysis, conclude which solution works best and which materials helped improve bubble durability.

Variations

You can test and manipulate other properties of the experiment by changing the variables as well. You can look into how glycerin or corn syrup concentration affects the results, changing the overall volume and the amount of water.

Try changing the shapes of the bubbles. Does it affect the results? What happens when you stick three or more bubbles together? Feel free to explore and indulge in your curiosities as you carry out the experiment.

Would you like to try comparing commercially-purchased bubbles and putting them to the test, and comparing their durability with your personal mix? What ingredients are present? What factors affect the results?

Elena Jones

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