Tech & Science

Bubble Implosions Create Heat of Four Suns, Study Says

Collapsing bubbles (although not these kind) can create intense heat and light. John Schults / REUTERS

Scientists have found a new way to create bubbles that, upon collapsing, briefly produce light and heat. And the heat is intense, measuring up to 26,000 kelvins (46,000 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s more than four times the temperature at the surface of the sun.

This phenomenon, called sonoluminescence, was discovered in 1934, but it is still not fully understood. Some have claimed that collapsing bubbles might create enough energy so as to be capable of supporting nuclear fusion—the process wherein the nuclei of multiple cells merge and yield energy, and which powers stars—although these claims have been met with skepticism, and haven’t been definitively demonstrated.

In a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters, French physicists Jérôme Duplat and Emmanuel Villermaux made relatively large bubbles, measuring a centimeter (0.4 inches) in diameter. The duo start by creating tiny bubbles made of oxygen and hydrogen gas, which they ignite with a laser. The resulting explosive reaction creates water vapor, which expands into a larger bubble. The vapor quickly absorbs back into the liquid, creating a void that then collapses, producing the intense heat and light.

The large size of these bubbles will allow the scientists to better study sonoluminescence in the future, as noted in a post written by Alex Klotz, a physics researcher at McGill University, describing the study at the site Physics Forums.

Certain mantis shrimp can, by hitting prey with their clubs, create bubbles that implode upon themselves and yield intense heat, with temperatures above that of the sun’s surface.