The Glasswash team here at the Crick, keep flasks, beakers, and test tubes clean for use in the labs. They clean 750,000 bits every year, and with that much washing up, you can imagine how much soap they get through.
They don’t have much time to admire the patterns that bubbles can make when they clump together, but in this activity you can use soap and paint to not only make some colourful bubbles, but also capture the patterns hidden within.
What you need
What you'll need
Poster paints, any colours you like
Washing up liquid or hand soap
A drinking straw
Spills can be messy, but also very slippery, so it’s a good idea to cover surfaces with something like old newspaper and clean up any spills straight away.
- Be careful when you're making your art not to inhale any of the bubbles or liquid.
What you'll need to do
Let's get started
Squirt some paint into a bowl, and keep different colours in different bowls.
Add a few drops of washing up liquid or hand soap to your bowls of paint, and mix together.
Making the bubbles
Add a small splash of water to your bowls of paint, just a little at a time.
- You can test it by blowing bubbles into your paint mixture with the straw. If the bubbles don’t stay, add a tiny bit more water and try again.
- Too much water and your bubbles won’t show up, so add a little more paint and try again. It all depends on the exact paint you’re using, so a little experimenting is needed.
Once you can blow a bubbles in your paint mix, blow so many that they bulge above the bowl.
Time to get creative!
Hold your paper above the bowl and lower it down, keeping it level. It will pop the bubbles, but that’s ok.
Lift your paper and take a look. The bubbles should have printed onto the paper. If they haven’t left any colour, try adding more paint to your mix and try again.
- You can do this as many times as you like. Try printing different coloured bubbles on top of each other, or mixing paints to create colours you didn’t have.
- Careful though, too many different colours will always end up a sludgy brown.
Let your masterpiece dry
Once your paint is dry you can use your paper to decorate notebooks, make cards, or put it on the fridge and just admire the patterns.
Soapy water is really good for making bubbles, but have you ever tried making bubbles without the soap?
It just doesn’t work. If you’ve ever watched raindrops on the window you might have noticed that when two drops get close enough they pull each other together and make one bigger drop.
This is because water likes to pull itself together as tightly as it can. And that’s no good for bubbles. Soap mixes with the water and makes it pull together a bit less, so now it’s a bit more ‘stretchy’ and we can stretch it out to make bubbles.
It’s all to do with the molecules, the tiny particles that make everything up.
Water molecules like grouping together, but soap molecules do something a little different. There are two sides to a soap molecule, one that sticks to water, and one that pushes water away. This means the soap molecules stop the water molecules from clinging together tightly, which is where that stretchiness comes from.
The reason we use soap to clean things is because water can’t stick to things like grease on it’s own, but remember the side of soap that doesn’t stick to water?
It’s really good at sticking to grease. So the soap molecule sticks to the water molecule on one side and the grease molecule on the other, and the water can carry them all away and down the sink, leaving your greasy dinner plates, or some laboratory glassware, nice and clean.
Science at the Crick:
Science at the Crick
At the Crick beakers and test tubes have to be super clean, so we don’t just use soap and water, there are industrial dishwashing machines and even ovens to heat the glassware and make sure there are no cells or chemicals left from the last experiment that could ruin the next one.