What is a soap bubble scientifically

Free University of Berlin

Soap Bubbles: Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry
Photo © R. Haag

Rainer Haag explains the fascinating world of soap bubbles

Soap bubbles fascinate everyone, but what's behind this magic? Why do soap bubbles burst and why do they shimmer in all colors? And: can you “hide” people in a giant soap bubble? Rainer Haag answers these questions during the smartest night of the year and also presents fascinating soap bubble formations. Haag has been Professor of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry at the Free University of Berlin since the end of 2004.

Shortly before Rainer Haag came to Freie Universität, he was awarded a young talent award for nanotechnology by the Federal Ministry of Research (BMBF). He had previously obtained his doctorate at the University of Göttingen, researched at the English University of Cambridge and the American Harvard University and finally completed his habilitation in Freiburg.

With nanotechnology against cancer

Rainer Haag's research interests focus on tiny capsules a few billionths of a millimeter (nanometer) in diameter. The molecular nanocapsules are used to transport substances that, for medical reasons, reach specific points in the human body and should only be released on the spot. For example, this approach is suitable for drugs that target tumor tissue. Haag hopes that if cancer drugs are packaged intelligently, it may be possible to reduce the side effects of aggressive cell toxins and thus make chemotherapy more tolerable.

The prize money from the BMBF enables Haag to work for three years on a project that deals with intelligent transport systems for anti-cancer drugs. The research is also supported by the participating companies Qiagen and Schering. “From laboratory to clinic” is the subtitle of the BMBF-awarded project. That sounds practice-oriented. "I like to pursue goals that are linked to an application," confirms Haag. "I believe that the reference to practical application also motivates young employees." That is why he attaches importance to the fact that interns in his institute "investigate things that really needed ”instead of doing chemical L'Art-pour-l'Art.

Giant soap bubble; Photo © R. Haag

From nanocapsules to giant soap bubbles

The chemist knew early on that Rainer Haag would be drawn to the natural sciences. “This fascination was awakened in high school. I just found it exciting to gather knowledge with which one could understand the natural phenomena that surround us. ”Actually, one should start much earlier, says the father of two children. All little people have the necessary curiosity.

At this year's “Long Night of Science”, Haag creates giant soap bubbles that surround entire people. Everything in the service of the promotion of young scientists: “Even children can understand what the surface tension of water does.” That is why Haag’s performance is particularly suitable for the younger visitors to the Long Night. As part of a “Jugend-forscht” project and on behalf of the “Pustefix” company, he had previously helped schoolchildren to test and develop soap solutions that would make it easier to produce such gigantic bubbles. “You have to fine-tune the mix here than for the small bubbles. “Soap bubble professor”, as a major German game manufacturer once dubbed him - but that is a little too dazzling for him. Although the similarities between the giant bubbles and the nanocapsules cannot be completely dismissed.



see announcement of program item 18


Free University of Berlin
Fabeckstrasse 34-36 (lecture hall in the Institute for Inorganic Chemistry)
14195 Berlin
Building no. 11
Long night bus stop: Fabeckstr./Arnimallee
Time: 4 p.m. - 1 a.m.