Stable Air Nanobubbles in Water: the Importance of Organic Contaminants
Journal article, 2018
Nanobubbles, surprisingly stable submicrometer gas bubbles in water, appear to be common in water and biological fluids and are of great interest in technical applications ranging from ultrasound contrast agents to flotation in the mining industry. Nanobubbles on surfaces have been more researched than freely floating bulk nanobubbles, and the reason for their stability appears to be better explained. The stability of bulk nanobubbles is less well explained, several theories exist, and even their existence is sometimes questioned. In the present study, an attempt was made to generate nanobubbles through hydrodynamic cavitation as well as through vigorous shaking in test tubes, and it was found that none of these methods generated a detectable concentration of possible bulk nanobubbles if pure water was used, with or without a small addition of NaCl, the equipment was cleaned properly, and certain plastic materials were avoided. These results indicate that trace organic contaminants are necessary for nanobubble stabilization. Experiments were also made with the dissolution of a high concentration of inorganic salts, which generated bubbles by creating air supersaturation. Light scattering submicron particles were found in all solutions and appeared to be actual gas bubbles in at least one case. However, in many cases, these light scattering particles were unaffected by vacuum and pressure and appear, therefore, to be something else other than air bubbles. It is concluded that, in future research on nanobubble stability, it is very important to avoid contamination, as well as to ascertain that light scattering objects really are bubbles and not oil droplets or particles.