The Loh Down On Science

Tiny Bubbles

Scientists whip up a froth of very small, but incredibly useful, bubbles.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble--but totally worth it!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and on. . . bubbles.

Many foods and cosmetics are FULL of bubbles. They're actually whipped to give them a light airy texture.

But the very smallest bubbles never last. Gas pressure and surface tension cause them to pop immediately after forming.

No longer. Chemist Rodney Bee, looking for a way to make ice cream fluffier, managed to whip bubbles down to about one millionth of a meter in size.

The trick? Sugar!

Certain sugars, when whipped into microbubbles, form an armor shell of interlocking hexagons. Think of a soccer ball.

Bee experimented with a simple kitchen blender, whipping up bubbles of glucose syrup and sucrose stearate. The combination produced armored micro-bubbles that were stable for over a year.

Bubbles that small can make foods fluffier. They can replace fat molecules in normally unhealthy treats, making them better for you.

And on the medical front, they can even be used in contrast agents to produce clearer MRI scans.

So don't laugh the next time you hear: "Ti-i-iny bubbles!" Okay, you can laugh a little.


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