The Chemical History of a Bubble

Kenneth S. Suslick, Nathan C. Eddingsaas, David J. Flannigan, Stephen D. Hopkins, Hangxun Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


ConspectusAcoustic cavitation (the growth, oscillation, and rapid collapse of bubbles in a liquid) occurs in all liquids irradiated with sufficient intensity of sound or ultrasound. The collapse of such bubbles creates local heating and provides a unique source of energy for driving chemical reactions. In addition to sonochemical bond scission and formation, cavitation also induces light emission in many liquids. This phenomenon of sonoluminescence (SL) has captured the imagination of many researchers since it was first observed 85 years ago. SL provides a direct probe of cavitation events and has provided most of our understanding of the conditions created inside collapsing bubbles. Spectroscopic analyses of SL from single acoustically levitated bubbles as well as from clouds of bubbles have revealed molecular, atomic, and ionic line and band emission riding atop an underlying continuum arising from radiative plasma processes. Application of spectrometric methods of pyrometry and plasma diagnostics to these spectra has permitted quantitative measurement of the intracavity conditions: relative peak intensities for temperature measurements, peak shifts and broadening for pressures, and peak asymmetries for plasma electron densities.The studies discussed herein have revealed that extraordinary conditions are generated inside the collapsing bubbles in ordinary room-temperature liquids: observable temperatures exceeding 15 000 K (i.e., three times the surface temperature of our sun), pressures of well over 1000 bar (more than the pressure at the bottom of the Mariana Trench), and heating and cooling rates in excess of 1012 K·s-1. Scientists from many disciplines, and even nonscientists, have been and continue to be intrigued by the consequences of dynamic bubbles in liquids. As chemists, we are fascinated by the high energy reactions and processes that occur during acoustic cavitation and by the use of SL as a spectroscopic probe of the events during cavitation. Within the chemical realm of SL and cavitation there are many interesting questions that are now answered but also many that remain to be explored, so we hope that this Account reveals to the reader some of the most fascinating of those curiosities as we explore the chemical history of a bubble.The high energy species produced inside collapsing bubbles also lead to secondary reactions from the high energy species created within the collapsing bubble diffusing into the bulk liquid and expanding the range of sonochemical reactions observed, especially in redox reactions relevant to nanomaterials synthesis. Bubbles near solid surfaces deform upon collapse, which lessens the internal heating within the bubble, as shown by SL studies, but introduces important mechanical consequences in terms of surface damage and increased surface reactivity. Our understanding of the conditions created during cavitation has informed the applications of ultrasound to a wide range of chemical applications, from nanomaterials to synthetically useful organic reactions to biomedical and pharmaceutical uses. Indeed, we echo Michael Faraday's observation concerning a candle flame, "There is not a law under which any part of this universe is governed which does not come into play and is touched upon in these phenomena." (Faraday, M. The Chemical History of a Candle; Harper & Brothers: New York, 1861).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2169-2178
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 18 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all the Suslick Group members, past and present, that have contributed over the past 40 years to our sonochemical and sonoluminescence studies. This work was supported by the NSF and DARPA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


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