Bubble Lights Made From Scratch

Bubble lights are mesmerizing things to watch, up there with lava lamps as one of the nicer aesthetic creations of the mid-20th century. [Tech Ingredients] decided to head into the lab to whip up some of their own design, taking things up a notch beyond what you’d typically find in a store.

Bubble lights have a liquid inside glass that is held under a vacuum. This reduces the boiling point of the fluid, allowing a small heat input to easily create bubbles that float to the top of the chamber inside. The fluid used inside is also chosen for its low boiling point, with [Tech Ingredients] choosing dichloromethane for safety when using flames to work the glass.

The video shows off the basic glass working techniques required to make the glass bubble tubes, as well as how to build the bases of the bubble lamps that light the fluid up and provide the heat to create bubbles. The use of different materials to create nucleation points for the boiling fluid is also discussed, giving different visual effects in the final result. It’s a great primer on getting started building these beautiful decorations yourself.

Bubbles are pretty things, and with different techniques, we’ve even seen them used to make displays. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Cliff for the tip!]

21 thoughts on “Bubble Lights Made From Scratch

    1. Look up isopropyl alcohol, acetone, muriatic acid, ammonia, boric acid, sodium hypochlorite, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, etc. All but the last 2, you should find in your house, all “nasty stuff”. (The last 2 are uncommon to have in one’s house, highly basic and corrosive… But I have them for soap making due to allergies to detergents. I handle NaOH(sodium hydroxide) often, it has a pH of about 14 when I handle it, corrosive to skin and glass, that “nasty stuff” produces luxurious, moisturizing soaps from which I don’t have an allergic reaction.

      If you have an issue with methane based products, stop taking your medications, because things like methanol are a non-polar solvents and used to create things like glycerin, which is used in enteric coating for capsules and long/extended release.

        1. They have a very good point many many things that will be in your household products (often the only ingredient that actually does anything) are pretty damn dangerous if you treat them without the right respect.

          This is no different – it is reasonably safe if used with some care but will bite if you are trying to earn a Darwin award… And the same could be said of just about everything you come into daily contact with not understanding how to handle a cuppa tea, the kettle, a pan full of cooking oils safely will bite you damn hard if you are stupid/ignorant in your use of them even to the point it makes you wind up very dead (even burns your abode down so could end killing a great many more folks than just you)… And as soon as you get into the world of cleaning products… those things are often so nasty just a touch on your bare skin will be most unpleasant and breathing in the fumes, drinking it etc might well kill you very rapidly. Most of us will have used some dangerous chemical in a cleaning product at many times in our lives… Its perfectly safe, not at all a concern to pick up the x cleaner and use it, but if it got anywhere it wasn’t supposed to its really not going to be good for you, same thing here…

          anything ‘methane’ is chemically rather similar to anything else methane – its the same hydrocarbon backbone with bits on, and many working groups behave rather similarly to each other under the right conditions – methanol is not a stupid comparison, it would be a perfectly valid, functional filler for one of these tubes, if you could then seal the tube safely (which is possible if you plan your construction around the filler chemical so don’t use methods that will pose problems or do those elements that would be dangerous in the right contained environment)…

    2. I work with a lot of chemicals, and out of all of them dichloromethane is the worst. We needed a special training course and paperwork for just this one chemical, and special monitoring. If it lands on your glove, it will eat through it in seconds. You must notice it hits and use that few extra seconds to immediately rip your gloves off. It will dissolve flesh easily. I don’t think this is a good idea.

      PS methanol and methylene chloride are not alike, at all–methane too. If there is a single difference in the name of a chemical it will have different properties.

  1. Dichloromethane is commonly known as Methylene Chloride. It is totally non flammable, a great degreaser and it welds plastic very well, especially plexiglass. It is also the active ingredient in many paint strippers (the ones that actually work)

  2. When I was a kid those were rumored to have some bad chemical inside them. They never had much void space on the top. Did the bad stuff need less space at the top? Some of these homebrew ones are half empty at the top.

    1. Because the heat of vapourization is too high and the vapour pressure at ambient too low for effective operation. Exactly the same reason water is such an awesome fluid for things like driving a turbine.

    2. Water has a much higher boiling point and takes 4 times as much energy to heat. Bubble lights using water would need a much larger bulb, would burn you if you touched them and would melt the plastic housing they use on a regular bubble light.

  3. I have had oxy- acetylene torches for years and have always wanted to try working with glass. I also have been playing with bubble lights for many years.
    After seeing this I know that I really want to try and make some of my own bubble light tubes.
    I would like to make some of the oil filled- slow moving bubble kind as well as the ‘ shooting star ‘ kind if possible. Plus I have some bubble lights that have glitter in the tubes and might like that effect as well.

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