Sonoluminescence Experiments


This is the beginning of the project, designing first what the prototype is going to look like, dusting off some old pieces of equipment, finding bits of wire and accumulating some inexpensive parts from Ebay.

The research question for this first project is simple enough – “can I achieve SBSL?”. This breaks down into the following sub goals:

  1. Can I build a decent stable and controllable rig.
  2. Can I achieve a good resonance of a flask without any nasty ripples.
  3. Can I successfully source and degas water for use in the experiment.
  4. Can I suspend a bubble in an acoustic field.
  5. Can I excite that bubble enough to reach SBSL.
  6. Can I detect that visually and acoustically.

Background Reading

There are a lot of papers out there on the phenomena, there are several good books, and a handful of good websites, I’ll collect all the references in one place with links rather than list everything in the Blog.

Books to Read
Sonoluminescence by Young
The Acoustic Bubble by Leighton
Shock Focussing Effect in Medical Science and Sonoluminescence by Srivastava et al.
Cavitation and Bubble Dynamics by Brennen.

Papers to Read
I’m not going to list all the papers here, suffice it to say there are oodles of them and I’ll probably come back to these once this first experiment is a success.. or failure..

Sites to Visit
Techmind as a nice write up:

Physwiki  has some good background information

UCLA Putterman Research Group for some inspiration – this is how the science professionals do it.

Sound Into Light

And finally an interesting site called Dans Nerdery with an unorthodox and amusing account of his own explorations sometime last year, which by his account were entirely successful. He has some nice ideas about controlling tuning of the system which we’ll get to later.

Rig Design and Construction

  1. Design a simple rig that might work.
  2. Source suppliers and parts
  3. Build the rig, with close attention to safety – 4 year old and cat proofing.

To kick off we’re looking at this set up:

  1. Oscilloscope – replaced the old phillips scope which smoked, with a non smoking DS1052E.
  2. Signal generator – a few to try out – but will probably settle on the MHS5200 as its got fine control.
  3. Amp – of some sort
  4. Driver circuit
  5. Oscillation Vessel
  6. Transducer
  7. Mic
  8. A box of instrumentation things for analysis – we’ll get to this later!


Some pictures below of the kit, I decided not to use the old Farnell generator because the signal wasn’t particularly stable in amplitude, and opted for a modern digital frequency synthesis box that can be gotten off Ebay for a reasonable price. The user controls are a bit odd, but fine once you get used to it, it is controllable from the USB port if you have a mind to tinker using a PC.


And the trusty Rigol DS1052E – does what it says on the tin without complaint – good little scope for this project, brilliant for getting trace pictures off and into this blog, plus potential for USB control and tinkering.


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