Let there be Light! Updates from Team Bubbles


Towards the end of 2018, four International Space University ISU MSS students - Adam Nawal, Orr Cohen, Sara Kahn, and James Hurrell - started work on an experiment focused on single bubble sonoluminescence (SBS). They’re known as “Team Bubbles”. Let’s read more!

“The SBS research, initiated at ISU by former professor Dr Barnaby Osborne and now overseen by ISU Master of Space Studies MSS director, Prof Chris Welch, investigates the creation of light from sound. 

In SBS, a bubble of air trapped in a flask of water subjected to an acoustic field can be made to glow visibly as it expands and collapses rapidly. SBS is still not fully understood, though. It is thought that gravity constrains the shape of the collapsing bubble which can limit both the size of the bubble and the brightness of the light. 

With this in mind, Team Bubbles applied to ESA Academy's Drop Your Thesis! Program to investigate microgravity SBS. Part of the suite of ESA Academy microgravity opportunities, the DYT! program is undertaken in conjunction with the prestigious ZARM drop tower in Bremen. 122 metres tall, this tower is able to provide more than 4.7 seconds of high-quality microgravity to experiments in freefall. 

After being accepted to the DYT! program, Team Bubbles were put through their paces at a fantastic microgravity training week program at ESEC-Galaxia in Belgium. There they were able to consult Dr. Thorben Könemann on the best way to miniaturize their experiment to fit in the drop tower capsule, the schedule of the Bremen drop campaign, and the facilities and equipment available at ZARM.

Since then, the team has been hard at work. Two new superstars have been added - Hameed Mohamed from ISU and Gisele Santos from the ECAM Strasbourg-Europe engineering school. With the assistance of many others, including the team’s mentor from the European Low-Gravity Research Association (ELGRA), Dr Anna Garcia Sabate, and Prof Grégoire Chabrol from ECAM and iCube, work has been advancing steadily, with plans for precise measurement apparatus, preliminary drop tests, and automation of the experiment being finalized.

A major milestone was reached recently - the production of sonoluminescence in the lab bench experiment, as pictured! There is a great deal of work yet to do, both to sustain and stabilize the phenomenon and to adapt the apparatus for the drop tower capsule, but this is still cause for major celebration.

Onwards to the ZARM tower in Bremen!

For more information, follow us on our Facebook page @sonobubbles.”

ISU Team Bubbles.

ISURes Sono1 ISURes Sono2 ISURes Sono3

Images credit: Hameed Mohamed, ISU.

Cover image: a zoom of the image, so named in literature “star in a jar”.

First two images: they show the flask and the bubble of light, pale blue in the center with a small amount of background light.

Last (and cover) picture: images are in total darkness with only the bubble as a source of light.