How-To: Make chemiluminescent soap bubbles

Fun & Games Science

No photos yet. That’s a homework assignment for the bubble chemists in the audience. But I couldn’t resist sharing my excitement over this paragraph from US patent 5,246,631 for glowing soap bubbles:

An example of practice of the present invention involves using a liquid dish such as LEMON JOY available from Procter & Gamble Company (Cincinnati, Ohio). Although the LEMON JOY may be diluted with varying amounts of water, it is preferred that the dishwashing liquid be used at full strength. Approximately 9 milliliters of CYALUME solution made in accordance with the manufacturers instructions are added to approximately 120 milliliters of the dishwashing liquid. Although this particular mixture may be used to produce adequate self-illuminated bubbles, it is preferred that 3 to 4 drops of glycerin be added to the solution as a bubble hardener. The solution is then ready for use to form self-illuminated bubbles.

I’ve never actually measured how much Cyalume (Wikipedia) is in a standard glow-stick, but I’m betting you could come up with 9 mL of the stuff by cutting open two or three at most.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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