Many chemical engineers will be familiar with bubbles and foams. They are used widely in foods, drinks, cosmetics, cleaning products… just to name a few.
The benefits of bubbles in products like these are generally self-evident, but, remarkably, they are also being used to help us understand how the very first living cells on Earth might have survived billions of years ago.
The video above demonstrates how tiny, soapy bubbles can reorganize their membranes to let material flow in and out in response to the surrounding environment. Billions of years ago, such emergent behavior could have allowed the earliest living cells to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Most of us, at some point in our lives, have been in the situation where our phone batteries have run out of power at the most inconvenient time. And waiting for it to recharge takes longer than expected; it can be one of the most frustrating things in modern day life.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prediction that over two thirds of the world’s population will face living with severe water shortages by 2050 is daunting.
The combination of population growth, climate change and dwindling resources make this a complex problem.
As someone who lives in the UK, this is something that has not really affected us. There have been summers when the water companies impose bans on using hose pipes to water gardens and wash cars. It makes the news headlines and interrupts daily lives, but a dirty car is nothing compared to the problems experienced elsewhere.
In other areas of the world, water scarcity is a daily reality – it’s not just areas of famine hit Africa, but the Middle East and Singapore too. We will all have to address this challenge, in our homes and in the industries that we work in.