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Scientists Propose Revised Theory on Surface Nanobubble Stability

A new study into better understanding how tiny, yet powerful, bubbles develop and collapse on underwater surfaces could enable the development of more robust industrial structures like ship propellers.

Calculations using supercomputers have shown the growth details of so-called nanobubbles, which are several thousand times smaller than a pinhead.

The results could provide a useful understanding of the destruction to industrial structures, like pump components, when these bubbles burst to produce tiny but powerful streams of liquid.

Computer Simulations

Although this quick expansion and collapse of bubbles, called cavitation, is a general issue in engineering, it is not yet understood exactly.

Engineers from the University of Edinburgh used the UK’s national supercomputer to develop complex simulations of air bubbles in water.

They modeled the movement of atoms in the bubbles and observed their growth in response to minor decreases in water pressure.

They successfully determined the critical pressure required for the growth of the bubbles to become unstable and discovered that this was much less compared to that proposed by theory.

Bubble Dynamics

The study outcomes could offer the details on the advancement of nanotechnologies to use the power of several thousand streams from collapsing nanobubbles, for example, therapies targeting certain cancer types or cleaning high-precision technical equipment.

An updated theory on the surface nanobubble stability has been proposed by the scientists, depending on their results.

Their work, reported in Langmuir, was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Bubbles routinely form and burst on surfaces that move through fluids and the resulting wear can cause drag and critical damage. We hope our insights, made possible with complex computing, can help limit the impact on machine performance and enable future technologies.

Duncan Dockar, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh


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