How soap bubbles freeze

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Springer Nature


Droplets or puddles tend to freeze from the propagation of a single freeze front. In contrast, videographers have shown that as soap bubbles freeze, a plethora of growing ice crystals can swirl around in a beautiful effect visually reminiscent of a snow globe. However, the underlying physics of how bubbles freeze has not been studied. Here, we characterize the physics of soap bubbles freezing on an icy substrate and reveal two distinct modes of freezing. The first mode, occurring for isothermally supercooled bubbles, generates a strong Marangoni flow that entrains ice crystals to produce the aforementioned snow globe effect. The second mode occurs when using a cold stage in a warm ambient, resulting in a bottom-up freeze front that eventually halts due to poor conduction along the bubble. Blending experiments, scaling analysis, and numerical methods, the dynamics of the freeze fronts and Marangoni flows are characterized.