Flashing soap bubbles are an unexpected new tool for turning flowers into fruit,media reported. As the number of bees declines, it becomes more urgent to find alternatives to pollinate crops. Now researchers have found that soap bubbles can carry pollen particles and attach them to flowers.
“It sounds like a fantasy, but effective pollination of functional soap bubbles and ensuring fruit quality are the same as traditional hand pollination,” said Eijiro Miyako, an associate professor at Japan’s Institute of Advanced Science and Technology and lead author of the study.
Researchers have been working on automated bee robots and small drones to do pollination. Miyako and his colleagues have previously experimented with a toy drone, but they have found that the drone has a tendency to harm flowers when they come into contact. Soap bubbles represent a more moderate solution to the problem.
The researchers first found that soap bubbles do carry pollen. They then tested different foam formulations and identified a compound sometimes used in shampoos — lauramidopropyl betain is a good carrier.
Early experiments showed promise, but there are still some obstacles to determining the most accurate way to target bubbles and how to deal with potential weather problems such as rain or wind.
“We hope that our multidisciplinary approach, which combines soap bubbles with drone technology, will lead to innovation in agricultural engineering,” the authors wrote in the paper. “