“Nanobubbles are the tiniest bubbles you’ve never seen,” says Niall English, a chemical engineering researcher at Univ. College Dublin. With diameters from 50 to 100 nm — less than the wavelength of visible light — nanobubbles are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Yet despite their invisibility, these bubbles have the potential to revolutionize a variety of environmental and industrial processes, including agriculture, wastewater treatment, and ecosystem management.
One of the key properties of nanobubbles is their extremely high surface-area-to-volume ratio. This makes them less subject to the phenomena of buoyancy, meaning they can stay suspended in liquids for long periods of time. While larger bubbles rise to the atmosphere very quickly, nanobubbles have a lifetime of hours or even days.
Up until now, these curious bubbles have typically been generated using a method called cavitation, where gas is forced through a membrane at high pressure. But this process has proved both energy expensive and error-prone, whereby the membrane gets fouled and breaks down.
To address these issues, English and his colleagues invented a novel method to generate nanobubbles using...
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