Surfactant is short for "Surface Active Agent." A surfactant is any substance which prefers to exist at the boundary between two other substances - for example, detergent molecules have one end highly soluble in greasy substances and one end soluble in water. Surfactants are categorized as "soaps" which are derived from vegetable oils and "detergents" which are derived from anything else, mostly petroleum.
Bubble Tech surfactant solutions should have the following desireable properties
- ease of bubble generation
- long bubble life
- minimum light-reducing residue
- no reaction with glazing
"Soap scum" is a result of calcium and magnesium percipitating out of the soap/water solution. Soap-based bubble tech could involve a water treatment to remove mineral ions before the water is pumped to the generators.
Detergents do not react with minerals in the water and do not leave residues. Detergents are also pH neutral and may be less likely to react with polymer glazing.
Glycerine added to bubble solutions helps the bubbles hold onto the water and extends the life of the bubbles.
Surfactant Solution Formulae
The following formulae are taken from http://www.ace.gatech.edu/experiments/boys/soap_ingredients.html
32 parts distilled water, 1 part liquid dishwashing detergent, 3/4 part glycerin.
12 parts distilled water, 1 part liquid dishwashing detergent, 1/2 part glycerin.
I suggest that we have a page on the subject of Soap Solution Formula? where everyone can contribute the formula that they are using and where we can link to other pages that will share experience with the results obtained with each type.
I made a page about Soap Solution (what you get when you dilute the Soap Concentrates) and it would be great for some one to jump in and provide more technical details that would help guide our search for the best possible bubble making liquid. Also, it good to know that "soap" is a vegetable oil derived surfactant, however I have actually used only detergents in my projects - these are petrochemical products. This is also why I have had little problem with "soap scum" though I have never used soft (treated) water.
It is good to know that we could also have sources that are from renewable resources. I would, however still like to use the term Soap for general reference and discussion because it is a word that most people relate with bubbles.
Just as there are formula to mix the diluted solutions that are actually used for Bubble Generation there are also formula for the Soap Concentrates. We could have a page about Soap Concentrate Formula? where we can publish what we know to be in the concentrates that we are using. For example "Liquid dishwashing detergent" is a concentrate, but we do not know what the chemical ingredients are and we are not likely to obtain the formula for commercial products. However, we could at some point get these materials anaylized so that we know what is in them.
The Soap Concentrate Manufacturers? (or should we say Detergent Concentrate Manufacturers? because they are making petrochemical products) can and do provide information about the composition and chemistry of the the products that they sell - so to the extent that we can get this information then we can share it.
It would be great to see some of our members with chemical research positions in industry or university to do some basic investigations and give the community some guidence. This is not rocket science and the sooner this information is widely understood and becomes accessible the better it will be for our DIY and Grass Roots approach. - Solaroofguy