Thursday, 31 January 2013

Chemical lowers surface tension to extract oil deposits

Chemical lets researchers extract significant oil deposits; Leaves positive environmental footprint

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Australian (not so Nice) Bubble Party

Tommy whilst a little drunk from Lithuanian vodka exclaims, 'When are we going to the bubble party?' He reminiscences of going to an 80's themed bubble party a few years before in Tallinn.

'Tommy there is no bubble party!'

We ate dinner, drank more vodka and threw Tommy over the fence.  There was no bubble party in Lithuania.  However we did manage to go to a cool beach party though.  However, if Tommy were on one of the beaches in Australia today he could in fact go to a bubble party.  Although these bubbles are not the ones where he should want to party. 

What the hell?  

Every few years with immense agitation of the seawater caused from a tropical cyclone or some other phenomenon foam washes ashore.  With higher concentrations of dissolved organic matter (e.g. surfactants like soap and everything else) the water is churned and bubbles are formed from sticking to each other through surface tension.  The foam properties are much like bubble bath as they have a low density and thus can blow inland from the beaches quite easily.  On the other hand this is unlike Tommy's bubble party nor your bubble bath.

These bubbles can be potentially dangerous for a number of reasons.  Firstly, you do not know what lies beneath the foam.  There could be rocks, glass (in this case it is like the bubble party).  People also do not know what kind of surfactant particles are in the foam or have been trapped by the foam.  These could be pollutants, toxins, and even sewage.  It is obvious that you can get quite lost in the foam and two people are already reported missing and several car accidents are reported.  Lastly, this foam contaminates drinking supplies and in cities like Brisbane this is already at dangerously low levels. 

So Australia might not be the bubble party for which anybody was looking.  It does give some nice pictures though. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Water Break Test for Cleaning Parts

Monday, 21 January 2013

Why Hindus Should Learn About Surface Tension: Capillary Action in Indian God Statue

I was watching the news and learned it was Basant Panchami (or Vasant Panchami) which is a Hindu festival celebrating Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art.  So several million Hindus went to go to the Ganges to bathe as part of this celebration.  Bathing in the Ganges is thought to absorb your impurities.  I am not really here to judge or determine whether this polluted river has magical qualities or can make miracles for the people living around it.  However, I am more interested in another miracle that was recently called 'The Hindu Milk Miracle'. 

Watch this to see what I mean:

 Wait....  WHAT?

Did that statue just drink that milk?  Why did the guy give milk to the statue?  What is going on?

Likely they are giving the statue milk as a sacrifice.  They do this many religions.  Religions sacrifice anything from chickens to giving large amounts of money.  This helps to appease the gods.  This also likely happens to line the pockets of religious mystics.

Unexplained things in science have been often viewed as religious, magic or dark spirits.  In many cases (not all) after learning about these things science has come up with a reasonable, logical and testable answer e.g. Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer's nose.

So in the case of the drinking statues in September 21st, 1995 before dawn a Hindu worshipper in New Dehli made a milk offering to Ganesha (apparently without Corn Flakes).  The liquid disappeared like in the video when the milk was brought up to the statue.  The first and most logical thought at the time was that the statue was drinking the milk.  This went viral quickly.  In a city the size of New Delhi this would go viral with religious and non-religious people seeing the milk drinking.  In the early days of the internet it even spread to outside of India to the UK, Canada, United Arab Emerites and other countries.  This kind of miracle has a huge impact on economics with huge traffic jams happening around the area, an increase in milk consumption (as much as 30%) and the religious men the temples getting a lot of money with the steady flow of patrons.

This somehow struck a nerve with one group in India called the Indian Science and Rationalists' Association.  Since 1949 they have been busy exposing fraudulent "godmen".  These guys have seen it all from levitation, electrical shocks to drinking statues.  They set out to expose these not only for the Hindu religion but also for other religions.  With Hindu being one of the more predominant it seems that they have a lot of gurus and magic men to keep them busy.  Exposing them means putting them out of business.

So what is happening with the milk?  The statue is likely made of a material that has small porous holes.  These holes allow liquids to wick the milk through them making it almost look like the statue is drinking before gravity caused the milk to run down the front of the statue.  The surface tension of the milk allowed the capillary action to take place in these statues.  Likely the statues were made of fine-grained sediments such as silt and clay, with an aggregate surface area which can attract water molecules better.
So how can you test this?  The Indian Science and Rationalists Association just used a little food coloring.  This allowed a cheap but effective scientific explanation.  They now could see that the colored milk was running down the statue after gravity applied its force.  Of course laughed at by the Hindus believing the mystics rather than learning about surface tension.  Mr. Prabhir Ghosh, the critical skeptic scientist, was one of the people to demonstrate how the Hindus were coaxed into believing the miracle. He quoted on the phenomenon after his explanation - "See what it is that the gurus and swamis are up to!".

This video talks about capillary action at the 4 minute mark.

Extra Note: Christian's should also learn about surface tension.  Jesus walking on water is impossible unless the water was frozen or he was the size of an ant. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Droplets and a Nanotube Array: A Love Story

With superhydrophobic substances like carbon nanotubes, a high speed camera and small water droplets you can create magic.  Possibly this might not be the gift that people want as a valentines day present (less than a month away).  For people that like fluid dynamics this might be the perfect gift.  It is the equivalent of fluid dynamic porn.

The researchers at Caltech wanted to make superhydrophobic materials for practical applications.  These kind of applications can be for example to have container ships glide more smoothly through the water.  so they showed water droplets on these nanotubes at different velocities to see what kind of impact they have, whether they break into a couple of separate drops or whether they make a larger spray.  Then they changed the angle and the shape of the nanoarray to make a really cool half pipe.  Watch to see what happens when two drops go on the half pipe.

Original article featured in Popsci:

Sweat Powered Nanoelectronics from Capillary Action

Acrobatics of a Polymer Film is not Cirque de Soleil

Can your ipod shuffle with water vapor or your own sweat? 

Previously, I wrote about capillary action and perpetual motion machines.  Since Boyle's original intent was to use capillary action (a force that does not require energy and goes against gravity) to run the perpetual motion machine.  However, as stated the capillary action within the tube would also keep the liquid from running out which would hinder your production of energy.

Boyle maybe did not think about two different types of materials that counter each other.  MIT researchers at the David H. Koch Institute for Inegrative Cancer Research has developed polymer films that generates their power from water vapor.  Basically you have two films of polymers opposing each other on a 20 micrometer thick film.  One film is hyrodrophilic (water loving) whereas the other is hydrophobic (water hating).  When you place the water vapor on the hydrophilic surface the bottom layer curls away generating some force and electricity.  The water evaporates the bottom layer becomes dry and the cycle repeats when more water is placed. 

But just how much force?

As written by David Szondy in Gizmag:

“By incorporating the two different kinds of polymers, you can generate a much bigger displacement, as well as a stronger force,” postdoctoral student Liang Guo said.

The film exploits the water gradient between dry and moist environments. When it lies on a surface with even a small amount of moisture present, the bottom layer curls away. This exposes the polymer to the air where the water evaporates from its surface. The bit of film does a somersault and the cycle starts over.
This isn’t just a laboratory curiosity. The polymer film exerts a surprising amount of force as it curls. A 25-milligram film can lift 380 times its own weight or carry along a load of silver wires ten times its weight. According to the researchers, that’s enough force to replace electric actuators in small robotic limbs. What’s more, it can do so without manipulating the environment. If water is available, the film will work.
This property gives it an advantage not only as a mini-motor, but as a power source. The film could use piezoelectric materials to generate electricity. Currently, the film can produce 5.6 nanowatts, which is enough to run ultra-low power microelectronic devices.

 So you can literally just put this film in your bathtub, walk away and get some energy?

The researchers also envision the film creating power by being placed over a body of water or incorporated into clothing where sweat could power wearable electronics. For the immediate future, the team is working to improve the film’s efficiency to allow smaller films to power larger devices.'

Yep!  Although it seems as perpetual as the drinking bird.  Not so much power but with enough of these you might be able to charge your ipod shuffle. 

Where can I find more?

Check out the this video:

In the January 11th Issue of Science you can find the original article.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Understanding Surface Tension and Perpetual Motion Machine

Robert Boyle was regarded as the first modern chemist.  Before he existed only alchemists were present with no real scientific method nor understanding of the elements.  Robert Boyle was very skeptical of this method of thinking and was concerned with the elements involved.  For those that have studied physical chemistry you may know the law named after him which states that the product of pressure and volume is a constant for a given mass when the temperature is constant.  He and his colleague Robert Hook devised the first apparatus to test the initial hypothesis.  With this law in mind and perhaps using Francis Bacon's push to start inventing really really cool stuff at the start of the industrial revolution no matter how crazy Boyle started work on a perpetual motion machine.

Basically it is based on a flask with a tube that is able to refill itself again and again as seen below:

It was thought that the capillary action of the tube the water flowing in the tube, but since the same cohesion force that draws the liquid up the tube in the first place holds the droplet from releasing into the bowl, the flow is not perpetual.  But who knows what kind of liquids they tried.

Interesting enough some people managed to make it recently and post it on youtube:

This video was made by Munchausen Today.  They publish videos created on pseudo-scientific beliefs, unproven facts, false evidences, not-patented inventions and their own crazy ideas. They show that Boyle's thermodynamically impossible device is finally realized. With beer.

BUT WAIT.  They cheated.  There is a pump.  This machine with beer would not really work.

FYFD explains:
The concept was that capillary action, which creates the meniscus of liquid seen in containers and is responsible for the flow of water from a tree's roots upward against gravity, would allow the thin side of the flask to draw fluid up and refill the cup side. In reality, this is not possible because surface tension will hold it in a droplet at the end of the tube rather than letting it fall. In the video above, the hydrostatic equation is used to suggest that the device works with carbonated beverages (it doesn't; the video's apparatus has a hidden pump) because the weight of the liquid is much greater than that of the foam. Of course, the hydrostatic equation doesn't apply to a flowing liquid!
Incidentally, Boyle's Flask would work and run perpetually if it were loaded with a superfluid like liquid Helium, which under the right conditions (like 2 deg above Kelvin) it could have a viscoscity of zero.  Liquid Helium can defy gravity (almost like capillary action) and move on the outside of the container as well as making a frictionless fountain.  This would indeed give an endless supply of energy.  The only problem:  How much energy is it required to maintain the superfluid in a fluid state at 2 degrees above absolute 0?

Answer that and you will rule the world.

Read more at FYFD.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mixing Drinks in Space: How to make a B52

I want to go to space.  Seriously!  I want to get off the planet and go to space in zero gravity and punch aliens.  Seriously! 

One of the things that people do not understand about space and zero gravity is that it would be completely different experience from sex, food, music and of course drinking.  So take the entire bar culture and put it onto a space ship.  In normal gravity with normal surface tension you can do a technique called layering.  From the bar course I did you take a more dense fluid and layer it on top of a less dense fluid (this is even better with beer but the only bartenders to do it are in Slovakia).  Layering is what they do to make shots like B52s.  See more in this guys radical blog.

But in space layering does not work.  Why?  Layering does not work because there is no gravity.  No gravity means that the surface tension is larger than the buoyancy effects of a given liquid.  This is why you see droplets of water moving on the International Space Station (ISS).  Don Petit an astronaut on the ISS showed how to put bubbles inside a bubble.  This is done only with water:

Take for a second that you replace water with (Kahlúa), then in the inner bubble you add  Baileys Irish Cream then in the middle of that bubble you add some Cointreau.  It would be colorful and floating.  Instead of drinking it like a shot you could launch it into air and open your mouth an swallow it back.  Mixing drinks in space would be fantastic.  Just no flying the ship drunk....

(I am not sure if the above would work but likely alcohol will float the same as water even though it has a reduced surface tension.)

Astronauts have already made beer in space although without any foam and does not taste very good (probably something like Finnish beer). 

Vibrating Drops

What's happening?

Simple.  Dropping a water droplet in bulk water you get some bouncing due to the surface tension and kinetic energy and then coalescence into the bulk.  But if you keep on bouncing the bulk water using acoustic waves the originally droplet will be suspended on top.  It is not explained how big the drop are or how big the waves are to suspend the drop.  There is likely a maximum and a minimum that this could work.  Also different surface tensions of the droplet and the bulk water could also be explored.

via io9

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Sweden Rocks and Ice: A Record Made of Ice

I was on a plane last week to Denmark and was talking to a Danish drummer.  We talked about how Sweden is influencing rock and pop music like never before.  Many of the most popular artists in America have Swedish song writers.  When Americans think of Sweden apparently they think of Swedish meatballs, the Swedish Chef and ABBA.  As stupid as that sounds it is true.  However, Swedish artists have established themselves into American music under the noise of most of Americans.  They are kicking ass there as well with many song writers and artists.  The ones I am listening to at the moment are Lykke Li and the Shout Out Louds. 

And from their great education system Swedes are also experimenting with more than just music as seen in Fast Company.  The Shout Out Louds are experimenting with making a record out of ice using distilled water.  They tried some other combinations of fluids using a home chemistry kit but settled on distilled water.  The problem they faced is getting all the bubbles out the water and problems with the mold.  One other problem is that the people have to wait six hours before the record is ready which is quite a long time for the die hard music enthusiast (but maybe a little waiting is not so bad in the instant download/instant gratification culture of today).  The Shout Out Louds could have used other liquids that make freezing faster or freezing the surface to be slightly different than the bulk but this could have been more troublesome.

What does this have to do with surface tension and water?  Surface tension depends on temperature.  There exists a surface stress imbalance when a the liquid interface is subject to different temperatures.  The dependence of surface tension on temperature can lead to the existence of a surface stress imbalance when a liquid interface is subject to variations in temperature. These stresses then lead to fluid motion along the interface.  For low fluids with a low Reynolds number (like those of polymers or viscous fluids) this motion along the interface rapidly leads to motion in the bulk of the fluid which in our case could affect the record.

The Surface Tension changes from freezing to boiling.  Below is a table showing the difference in surface tension.

Temperature deg C / Surface Tension (mN m-1)

The Swedes maybe did not realize that when they were freezing their record with just plane water they could have been doing a more interesting surface tension experiment cryogenic liquids.  These liquids would have a similar effect but would have used evaporative cooling and would have been faster.  Although this might have been significantly more difficult it would have given me something more to write about.  If they pursued this route I could have written about Thermocapillary Convection in Liquid Droplets also called Bénard–Marangoni convection.  This is interesting and its understanding is needed to make better computer chips for example.  If they made their record using this the dominant forces in this process of thermocapillary convection would be from buoyancy force and the surface tension.  Thermocapillary convection and marangoni effects are still being investigated on the international space station (ISS).

Monday, 7 January 2013

Lord of the Rings

This post is misleading.  By Lord of the Rings it should be Lord Raleigh and the surface tension of Du-Nuoy rings.  (The hate mail by angry nerds is already flowing.  Bring it on.....).  When we think about surface tension we take it for granted that people like Benjamin Franklin, Laplace, Raleigh, Du-Nuoy, Padday among other scientists did such awesome things from invented great instruments to doing experiments to increase our knowledge of this peculiar physical property.  So I will take a little bit of time explaining who these people were and what contribution they made to surface tension.

Lord Raleigh

John Strutt was a physicist that inherited the Lord of Raleigh upon the death of his father.  He was a real Lord in this place in Raleigh, England (not North Carolina thankfully) and inherited the title upon his father's death.  The Baron state sits in Essex.  As you likely know the monarchy still exists in England and nobles are still passed on from generation to generation.  The Lord Raleigh's estate is currently held by 4th Baron of Raleigh John Strutt which is is the .

John Strutt was educated Essex and then later at the University of Cambridge in 1861 to study Mathematics.  He obtained his Masters of Arts degree in 1868 and was elected to the Fellowship of Trinity which he gave up when he became a lord.  Prestigious English schools aside the real greatness comes from Lord Raleigh's many achievements in physics like understanding why the sky is blue (Raleigh scattering), finding the element argon and understanding sound waves.      He later received a Nobel prize for his discovery of argon.

Lord Rayleigh was elected Fellow of the Royal Society on 12 June 1873, and served as president of the Royal Society from 1905 to 1908.  His fondness for science encouraged and helped others to continue in science like Angnes Pockels who created published with Raleigh the first paper on Surface Tension in the Journal Nature.

Although pure academics like Lord Raleigh are important it is always good to apply these principles to the world around us with a little bit of engineering of instrumentation.  Pierre Du Nuöy provided this with his invention for an apparatus to measure the surface tension force on a solution.

Pierre Du Nuöy

The du Noüy ring method is one technique by which the surface tension of a liquid can be measured. The method involves slowly lifting a ring, often made of platinum, from the surface of a liquid. The force required to raise the ring from the liquid's surface is measured and related to the liquid's surface tension.  This technique was proposed by the French physicist Pierre Lecomte du Noüy (1883–1947) in a paper published in 1925.   His life is better told by himself as published in one of his books. 

 "Dr. Lecomte du Nouy is an internationally known French scientist. He was born in Paris in 1883, was educated at the Sorbonne and the faculty of Law. He now holds the degrees of LL.B., Ph.B., Sc.B., Ph.D., and Sc.D. In 1915, Dr. du Nouy, then an officer in the French Army, met Dr. Alexis Carrel, and through him became interested in certain problems that appeared to have no solution. His work in developing a mathematical expression of the process of healing of wounds brought him to the attention of the Rockefeller Institute. From 1920 to 1927, as an associate member of that Institute, Dr. du Nouy carried on his research into the properties of the blood. An instrument that he invented brought him an award from the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia. In 1927 he returned to Paris. Until 1937 he acted as head of the important Bio-Physics division of the Pasteur Institute. In that year he was named a director of the `Ecole de Hautes Etudes' at the Sorbonne. He and his American wife, the former Mary Bishop Harriman, lived in Paris under Nazi domination in the early days of the war, but escaped to the United States in August, 1942, to carry on his work. In the course of his full life, Dr. du Nouy has studied with Sir William Ramsay, and with Pierre and Mme. Curie. He has published some two hundred papers, mostly technical, and seven books on his researches and his philosophy of science. One of these, L'Avenir de L'Esprit, ran to twenty-two editions in France in 1942 and was awarded a prize by the French Academy. Today Dr. du Nouy is known and respected by scientists of every land. In 1944 this respect was signalized by the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, when he was awarded the Arnold Reymond Prize, for his three books Le Temps et la Vie, L'Homme devant la Science, and L'Avenir de L'Esprit, as the most important contribution to scientific philosophy in the past ten years."

Not a Kibron Instrument

One of the great things with the invention of the Du Nouy ring is that it allowed people everywhere to measure the surface tension of various fluids and compare this information to someone else in the world using the same instrument.  Kibron does the same (although a little easier) using the Du Nouy Padday method in all of their devices.  This allows people to use our instrument in London and compare the results with their colleauges using the same instrument in Lexington with great confidence. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Shaking Sand to Create Surface Tension

As they mentioned in this video surface tension can be seen as a trampoline.  It is a thin film of fabric that stretches out holding the sides as well as can hold a force on top.  I like this example since you can think of it when you are jumping on a trampoline. 

What is cool about their research is that they took sand which does not not have electrostatic interactions like water and made them behave in a similar fashion to water by creating an ordered pattern called spinoidal decomposition making inelastic energy of the particles bashing together after shaking (not sure if I got all that right).  

Emergent Surface Tension in Vibrated, Non-Cohesive Granular Media Clewett et al. (2013) Phys Rev. Letters

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

How to Avoid Getting Scammed on New Year’s Eve Champagne

How to Avoid Getting Scammed on New Year’s Eve Champagne

I talked about surface tension of the bubbles in champagne before and how surface tension instruments or your own eyes can understand the differences in champagnes.  This article explains it a little more of the difference between American 'Champagne' and the real Champagne.  Pour it down the side of the glass to preserve some of the bubbles.   'As time increases after pouring, surfactant levels at the surface of the wine increase; these interlock in the liquid layer over the bubble caps, strengthening the surface tension and reducing the liquid velocity of the film so it does not drain away as rapidly, which extends the bubble lifespan.'

Sorry, this was posted two days after New Years but I am just finishing the last of the Champagne in my cellar.