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Zubbles are colored soap bubbles that do not leave stains. Popular Science named them the "Innovation of the Year" for 2005, and Reader's Digest said they were one of the "Best Innovations" of the year in 2006.[1]


Zubbles were invented by Tim Kehoe, a toy creator from St. Paul, Minnesota. [2] Kehoe started out mixing normal dyes with dish soap, but after that didn't work, he began to try other chemicals. The substances he used ranged from Jell-O to harsh chemicals such as nitric acid. After putting his work in coloring bubbles off so he could work for Bruce Lund, a man who ran a Chicago toy studio, Tim started his own company. Kick Design, as it was called, was mainly a front so that he would be able to easily get funding for continuing his bubble research.

After an unexplained breakthrough in his kitchen, he was able to produce blue bubbles. He showed a video of these bubbles to many toy companies, however, the bubbles stained clothing. For the next eight years, Kehoe worked for Web-design and software companies. After his company sold out and he no longer had a job, he decided to get back into the toy business. He and Guy Haddleton formed their own company.

After many fairly successful ideas, Tim told Guy about his bubbles. Guy told him to bring in a sample so that he could see them. After frantically rediscovering his work (a process slowed by what he believes was a changed ingredient in the dish soap he was using), Kehoe brought in his bubbles. [3] These were different from those he used before in that now they were water soluble. Excited, he launched a focus group with Guy. Unfortunately, washing off with water wasn't enough. Parents especially were shocked to see their children's clothes and skin covered with colors. Pushing on, Kehoe posted a request on for a dye-chemist. Ram Sabnis answered the request and worked until finally perfecting the dye.

Ascadia entered into a global license agreement with Spin Master Ltd. for Zubbles Colored Bubbles in December of 2005. In November 2005, the website said they were expected in stores by Spring 2006. As of January 2008, Zubbles are not yet commercially available and may not yet actually exist. An automatic reply e-mail from Spin Master Ltd. states that "Spin Master has no immediate plans to launch Zubbles Colored Bubbles. We thank you for your interest."[4]

How they work

They use special dyes called leuco dyes allowing them to be colored. The purple bubble uses a chemical called crystal violet lactone. The soap mixture that produces them was the first in the world and marketed under that name by Zubbles. After they have popped, the color disappears with friction, water or exposure to air.

In a normal soap bubble, surfactants lessen the surface tension of the water and allow the bubble to form. To create a colored bubble, dye molecules must bond to the surfactants. Each dye molecule in Zubbles is a structure known as a lactone ring. When the ring is closed, the molecule absorbs all visible light except for the color of the bubble. However, subjecting the lactone ring to air, water or pressure, causes the ring to open. This changes the molecule's structure to a straight chain which absorbs no visible light.

Lactone rings can be produced whenever a long chain molecule contains acid functionality on one end, and alcohol functionality at the other. The two ends of the molecule react in a condensation reaction, ejecting a water molecule. To drive the reaction back towards the long chain, pressure, heat or an excess of water must be added.


  • Popular Science article, November 2005
  1. ^
  2. ^ Popular Science feature, December 2005
  3. ^ Popular Science feature, December 2005, page 7
  4. ^ Spinmaster Zubbles Email
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Zubbles". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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