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Cavitation bubbles bursting with cleaning power

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Posted January 13, 2016

These bubbles may be able to rid fruits and vegetables of E. coli and Salmonella without chemicals.

Using various methods to create intricately patterned surfaces, engineers can make materials that attempt to closely mimic the beetle's back. What researchers have done is create surfaces that so excel at repelling or attracting water, they've added a "super" at the front of their description: superhydrophobic or superhydrophilic. By varying the layout of these surfaces, researchers can now trap, direct and repulse small amounts of water for a variety of new purposes. Find out more in this discovery. Image credit: Constantine M. Megaridis, Aritra Ghosh, Ranjan Ganguly, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago

Using various methods to create intricately patterned surfaces, engineers can make materials that attempt to closely mimic the beetle’s back. What researchers have done is create surfaces that so excel at repelling or attracting water, they’ve added a “super” at the front of their description: superhydrophobic or superhydrophilic. By varying the layout of these surfaces, researchers can now trap, direct and repulse small amounts of water for a variety of new purposes. Find out more in this discovery. Image credit: Constantine M. Megaridis, Aritra Ghosh, Ranjan Ganguly, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago

It’s easy to think of soap suds when one thinks of bubbles, but these bubbles can clean without chemicals. These are cavitation bubbles, which are created when air is churned up in water. And what researchers are learning could ultimately lead to chemical-free cleaning methods for fruits and vegetables.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), biofluid scientist Sunghwan “Sunny” Jung and his team at Virginia Tech are studying how a cavitation bubble creates a suctioning effect when it collapses, pulling everything close by toward it. Cavitation bubbles are already in use for certain industrial applications, such as cleaning water at treatment plants. Jung’s fluid mechanics lab is working with food scientists to see how effective cavitation bubbles are at pulling everything from soil to E. coli and Salmonella away from the smooth surface of a tomato or the bumpy surface of a cantaloupe. In the future, Jung envisions bubble machines as a common appliance at farmer’s markets and maybe even in households.


Source: NSF

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