Home Store Project Ideas Project Guide Ask An Expert Blog Careers Teachers Parents Students

Bubble-ology

Difficulty
Time Required Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues

Abstract

Making your own bubble solution is fun, but sometimes the bubbles don't seem to work as well as the solutions you buy in the store. In this experiment you can test if adding corn syrup or glycerin to your bubble solution will make it just as good as the stuff you can buy. This experiment will have you blowing bubbles!

Objective

In this experiment you will test if adding glycerin or corn syrup will improve a mixture of bubble solution.

Credits

Sara Agee, Ph.D., Science Buddies

  • Dawn® is a registered trademark of Procter & Gamble. All rights reserved.

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Bubble-ology" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 2 Sep. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Chem_p025.shtml?from=ParentsGirlScouts>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, September 2). Bubble-ology. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Chem_p025.shtml?from=ParentsGirlScouts

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.


Last edit date: 2014-09-02

Introduction

Everybody loves bubbles! But what makes bubbles form, and float up in the air until they pop?

bubble

soap bubble (Wikipedia Commons, 2006).

The secret to a good bubble is something called surface tension, an invisible bond that holds water molecules together. Water is a polar molecule, so it has plus and minus ends just like magnets that attract each other. When the water molecules align with each other they stick together, creating surface tension.

You might think that it is the surface tension of the water that holds the skin of a bubble together. Actually, the surface tension of water is too strong to make a bubble. You can try yourself to blow a bubble with plain old water, it just won't work! A good bubble solution has a detergent added to it to relax the surface tension of the water, allowing it to have more elastic, stretchy properties. Now it can act more like the skin of a balloon, stretching out nice and thin, trapping air inside of the bubble like a liquid balloon.

What do you need to make a good bubble solution at home? The basic ingredients are water and detergent. In this experiment, you will add glycerin or corn syrup to see if they can help you make better bubbles. Which solution will make the biggest bubbles? Which bubbles will last the longest?

Terms and Concepts

To do this type of experiment you should know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you search the Internet, or take you to your local library to find out more!

  • Water molecule
  • Polar molecule
  • Surface tension
  • Physical properties
  • Elastic properties
  • Detergent

Questions

  • What are the basic ingredients of a bubble solution and what do they do?
  • How do the physical properties of the bubbles change when the ingredients change?
  • What mixture makes the best bubble solution?

Bibliography

  • Read all about bubbles on this website from the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, developed by Exploratorium scientist Ron Hipschman:
    Hipschman, R., 1995. "Bubbles," The Exploratorium Museum, San Francisco, CA. [accessed June 6, 2007] http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/bubbles/
  • This article explains the components of a bubble formula and the history of bubbles:
    Pepling, R., 2003. "What's That Stuff? Soap Bubbles," Chemical and Engineering News, Volume 81, Number 17, pp. 34, publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS). [accessed June 6, 2007] http://pubs.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/stuff/8117sci3.html
  • Read this interesting article about how thin films of water and surface tension are different in space:
    Phillips, T., 2003. "Saturday Morning Science: Elastic Water on the ISS," Science@NASA, Marshal Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). [accessed June 6, 2007] http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/25feb_nosoap.htm
  • Here is more information about soap bubbles from Wikipedia:
    Wikipedia contributors, "Soap bubble," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. [accessed July 26, 2010] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap_bubble

Materials and Equipment

  • Glass mason jars with lids (recycled jars work great)
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Distilled Water
  • Liquid dishwashing soap (e.g. Dawn®)
  • Glycerin, small bottle (available at a drugstore or pharmacy)
  • Light corn syrup
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Permanent marker
  • Stopwatch

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

Experimental Procedure

  1. First, make your bubble solutions, and store them in clearly labeled glass mason jars. Use one jar for each different solution and label with the formula using a permanent marker. Here are three basic solutions to try, but notice that the total volume of the solution is kept consistent:
    Ingredient Solution #1
    detergent only
    Solution #2
    detergent + glycerin
    Solution #3
    detergent + corn syrup
    Water

    1 cup (240 mL) +

    1 Tbsp (15 mL)

    1 cup (240 mL) 1 cup (240 mL)
    Detergent 2 Tbsp (30 mL) 2 Tbsp (30 mL) 2 Tbsp (30 mL)
    Glycerin
    -----
    1 Tbsp (15 mL)
    -----
    Corn Syrup
    -----
    -----
    1 Tbsp (15 mL)
  2. Now make a pipe cleaner wand for each solution. Pinch a pipe cleaner in the middle and give it a kink. Bend one half of the pipe cleaner into a circle and twist together at the center. Repeat with the other two pipe cleaners, and check that all three circles are the same diameter.
  3. Go outside and test your bubble solutions. Blow a bubble and catch it on your wand. Immediately start the stopwatch and time how long the bubble lasts. This will take some practice, so try it out on some extra solution before you start!
  4. Repeat the experiment as many times as possible for each solution.
  5. Record your data in a data table:
      Solution #1 - Bubble Time (secs) Solution #2 - Bubble Time (secs) Solution #3 - Bubble Time (secs)
    Trial 1      
    Trial 2      
    . . . . . . .      
    Trial 20      
    TOTAL      
    Average Bubble Time in Seconds      
  6. For each bubble solution, calculate the average time in seconds that the bubbles lasted. Do this calculation by adding up all of the data for a solution, and dividing by the number of trials for that solution.
  7. Make a graph of your data. For each solution, make a bar of the average time in seconds that the bubble lasted.
  8. Analyze your data. Which formula worked the best?

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.


Variations

  • In this experiment, you investigated the presence or absence of an additive like glycerin or corn syrup. What about the concentration? If you are good at timing bubbles, you can try this experiment using different concentrations of glycerin or corn syrup in your solutions. How little is too little, and how much is too much to add?
  • Do bubbles always make a spherical shape? Try twisting pipe cleaners into different shapes, like: stars, squares, and triangles. What shape will the bubbles be?
  • What happens when three or more bubbles come together? See if you can design an experiment to test the idea that three or more bubbles will always meet at a 120 degree angle.
  • Have you ever tried Magic Bubbles? They are bubbles that resist evaporation, and are so stable that you can even touch them without popping. The secret to this formula is that a polymer (an elastic molecule) has been mixed into the solution which adds to the elastic properties of the bubble while helping to prevent evaporation. Try adding your own secret ingredients to your bubble mix. Does it change the physical properties of the bubble? Here are a few suggestions:
    • A small amount of glue, like white glue or gel glue
    • Different combinations of food coloring
    • Some scented oils

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

Ask an Expert

The Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.

Ask an Expert

Related Links

If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

female chemical engineer at work

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers solve the problems that affect our everyday lives by applying the principles of chemistry. If you enjoy working in a chemistry laboratory and are interested in developing useful products for people, then a career as a chemical engineer might be in your future. Read more
NASA material scientist

Materials Scientist and Engineer

What makes it possible to create high-technology objects like computers and sports gear? It's the materials inside those products. Materials scientists and engineers develop materials, like metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, that other engineers need for their designs. Materials scientists and engineers think atomically (meaning they understand things at the nanoscale level), but they design microscopically (at the level of a microscope), and their materials are used macroscopically (at the level the eye can see). From heat shields in space, prosthetic limbs, semiconductors, and sunscreens to snowboards, race cars, hard drives, and baking dishes, materials scientists and engineers make the materials that make life better. Read more

Looking for more science fun?

Try one of our science activities for quick, anytime science explorations. The perfect thing to liven up a rainy day, school vacation, or moment of boredom.

Find an Activity