Thursday Salute to Originals: Bubbles

New material samples arrive to our office on a daily basis. There’s always some up-and-coming or innovative surface, and if it’s translucent, you can bet we’re itching to see it! As we were unwrapping this latest set of samples from their bubble wrap casing, we started thinking…

Bubble Wrap Texture Close Up

Bubbles, those little air-filled pockets, do quite an impressive job at protecting some pretty substantial things when utilized in packaging. But inspiration from bubbles extends further than just packing material. These little guys have fueled creative verve for designs like Alexander O.D. Lorimer’s [ch]air and the infamous Beijing National Aquatics Center (aka “The Water Cube”).

Bubble Chair Water Cube Design

So what it is about bubbles that makes them tick? Well turns out, there’s quite a bit a science behind these little vulnerable floating orbs.

Bubbles, at their core are basically, a thin layer of soapy water filled with air. Air is forced into the solution expanding the film outwards creating a unit – the bubble (no big revelations there). But things start to get a little more interesting when you dive a bit deeper.

The spherical shape of a bubble isn’t just by chance. No matter the shape in which it originally begins, a bubble will always try to become a sphere because it reduces surface area, therefore, taking the least amount of effort to maintain (so not only are bubbles delicate, but they are lazy, too!).

Blowing Bubble Formation

An even more interesting is what happens when bubbles collide. When touching, bubbles begin to reorganize and redefine their geometry, merging their walls to reduce the overall surface area. If the bubbles are the same size, the adjoined wall is flat. When two differently sized bubbles combine, the smaller bubble bulges into the larger. And when more bubbles join the party, the walls start to merge at 120° forming hexagonal patterns, similar to that of a beehive.

Soap Bubble Patterns Colliding

For striking a delicate balance between aesthetics, science and childlike whimsy, we salute bubbles for their originality. We’re sure they will continue to inspire for generations to come!

Image sources: Westsell, Design Milk, Cumbu, Wikimedia, Highered Watch, CDN, Mentrepreneurs