Many of us celebrate significant birthdays often with friends and a glass of something bubbly.

On my 50th birthday I will be doing this, but with a twist: I’m in China, the friends are the experts of the ISO Committee TC281 that it has been my great privilege to chair for the last 3 years, and the ‘something bubbly’ is the fine and ultrafine bubbles that the group standardizes (in theory, measurement, and application).

ISO standardization of fine and ultra-fine bubbles

The 25th and 26th of September see our 10th meeting in Hangzhou China. We have now published 6 standards and have many more under development. The meeting is preceded by a two-day national conference for the Chinese bubble community and then an international conference on the 24th of September.

The number of new applications and scientists involved is growing year on year. The Japanese scientific community built the foundations of the fine bubbles industry, with many innovative companies making bubble generators and using their technology in everything from environmental clean-up (oxygenating the water), low-fat mayonnaise and ultra-low temperature to environmentally-friendly washing machines. We are now seeing increasing awareness across the whole of South-East Asia, especially in China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Hopes for the future

If we can do more with the same raw materials, by adding bubbles to water, we can enhance performance in areas such as agriculture (faster seed germination and hydroponics), environmental clean-up (oxygenation of lakes and rivers), chemical-free floor cleaning and drug delivery (bubbles can penetrate more deeply). We also see microbubbles being used in water filtration and as ultrasound contrast agents. The fact that we can achieve better plant growth, cleaner floors, cleaner rivers and oceans without the use of chemicals by simply oxygenating (or ozonating) water is amazing! ISO is asking its committees to look at how they contribute to the United Nations sustainable development goals, and for us it was relatively simple to see the difference we can make in several of these (mainly environmental and food-related), so we are trying to prioritize development of standards in this area.

How did I get involved?

So how did I as a metrologist get involved in this? Well, Malvern Panalytical designs and manufactures a number of technologies (the Zetasizer and the Nanosight) that are used to measure ultrafine bubbles, plus some other technologies (Archimedes and Mastersizer) that can be used to measure microbubbles. The ultrafine bubbles are less than 1 micron in diameter, and the fine bubbles can be up to 100 microns in diameter. The Zetasizer, Nanosight, and Archimedes systems can also provide information on the concentration of bubbles, as well as their size distribution – this is important in optimizing bubble generation conditions. As an expert in our group of technologies who is already involved in some aspects of international standardization, I was asked to join the group… and I enjoyed the science and the company of the scientists involved so much that I’ve now chaired the group for the last three years!

So I may not get to celebrate my birthday with champagne, but I will make do with small bubbles in water, and although I’m not with family, I’ll be with a large group of scientists I consider friends, doing some hard but rewarding work on documents which will help standardize technologies to help improve everyone’s quality of life.

I’ll take that…

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