Collapsing Bubbles

Feb 2000

When a bubble of air rises to the top of a highly viscous liquid, it forms a dome-shaped protuberance on the free surface. Unlike a soap bubble, it bursts so slowly as to collapse under its own weight simultaneously, and folds into a wavy structure. This rippling effect occurs for both elastic and viscous sheets, and a theory for its onset is formulated. The growth of the corrugation is governed by the competition between gravitational and bending (shearing) forces and is exhibited for a range of densities, stiffnesses (viscosities), and sizes—a result that arises less from dynamics than from geometry, suggesting a wide validity. A quantitative expression for the number of ripples is presented, together with experimental results that support the theoretical predictions.

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