This photo shows “the monolayer formed by tiny soap bubbles that are saving the world during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ankita Naik, a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Naik formed the monolayer by pouring a few drops of soap foam onto a petri dish filled with a soap solution. She uses images like this one to compare the bubble size distribution—an indicator of soap foam stability and lather formation—for various soap foams. Monitoring this information can give researchers clues about how a given soap film will drain and coalesce under various conditions. Naik says her lab has developed a new class of biorenewable surfactants, known as oleo-furan surfactants, that are 100 times as stable as conventional, petrochemical-based surfactants in hard water, characterized by high levels of calcium and magnesium minerals. Her research focuses on the kinetics and mechanisms of key reactions involved in synthesizing these surfactants, which she hopes will explain their improved hard-water tolerance.
Submitted by Ankita Naik
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