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Multi-Polymer MixesEdit

Multi-polymer mixes are bubble juice recipes that use more than one added polymer. It is a common misconception that combining polymers were result in a bubble juice that has the cumulative qualities of the added polymers. The reality is different. When combining polymers, the result is rarely a juice with the best qualities of each polymer. How the polymers interact with each other and the detergent (and the polymers in the detergent) depends on the polymers being combined.

Some multi-polymer combinations show no advantage or disadvantage compared to the respective single-polymer mixes. Some multi-polymer mixes may perform better than single-polymer mixes. Some combinations perform noticeably worse than respective single-polymer mixes.

Technically, all bubble juice made from commercial dishwashing liquids are multi-polymer mixes (since all those products contain co-polymers). However, "multi-polymer" on this wiki is used to refer to mixes with more than one added polymer.

Some Thoughts (Hastily Added)Edit

Before launching into the rest of the page's content, I want to say a few words about multi-polymer mixes. Over the 7 years that I have been intensively studying and testing bubble mixes and reading about other people's experiments and experiences, something has become clear. People have a (wrong) gut feeling that more polymers make for better mixes. There is an intuition that if you use polymers that have their own special contribution that combing them will give you the best qualities of each polymer. Generally, that seems not to be the case.

There may well be combinations of polymers in just the right balance that outperform individual polymers, but that does not generally seem to be the case.

People often launch into trying two or more polymers together before they have even explored a single polymer enough to know what a great mix with that polymer is like. I urge experimenters to get to know a polymer at a variety of concentrations with a variety of different water:detergent ratios before deciding to dive into multi-polymer mixes.

ControversyEdit

There has been some controversy over the years on SBF, the Soap Bubble Fanciers Yahoo Group as to whether multiple polymers can benefit juice. In a March 2011 posting on SBF, a chemist expressed the opinion that under stress conditions (such as low humidity) that combinations of PEO and cellulosic polymers (such as HPMC, HEC or CMC) would result in a bubble juice that performs worse than a PEO-only mix.

Many in the bubbling community that had experience with PEO/HEC or PEO/HPMC mixes have been of the opinion that such mixes were certainly no worse than their PEO-only mixes. Some as-yet unblogged experiments from Autumn 2012 seem to demonstrate that some polymer combinations (involving PEO, HPMC and CMC) are certainly no worse than single-polymer mixes. One video supporting this point of view can be seen here:

2012 09 30 PEO vs03:47

2012 09 30 PEO vs. Multi-Polymer on a Hot Dry Day

Multi-Polymer BenefitsEdit

Whether a multi-polymer mix is beneficial depends on the particular polymers and may also depend on both the equipment being used and the personal preference of the bubbler.

Some polymer combinations are frequently perceived as beneficial while others are often (or always) perceived as detrimental.

In many cases the perceived benefit may be due to the subjective quality that we call feel rather than due to an improvement to object qualities. Feel plays a large role in individual preference and success with a particular bubble juice. So, this impact is not to be ignored -- but it will be subject to personal preference.

PEO-based mixes with no co-polymers are often only slightly more viscous than water or water+detergent. Some people prefer slower flow rates. The addition of secondary or secondary and tertiary polymers may make the juice feel better to some people. This change in flow rate may also objectively improve performance with some wicks though the impact of flow rate of the juice and the wick have not been well studied.

Mutli-Polymer ProblemsEdit

Some polymer combinations seem to result in a film that is less forgiving or less strong than with single-polymer mixes.

Guar gum and xanthan gum together, for example, seem by most accounts to result in a mix that does not perform nearly as well as guar gum by itself. Even a fairly small amount of xanthan gum seems to make the the film more brittle.

Various CombinationsEdit

This section summarizes direct experiences and anecdotes reported by generally reliable contributors. Please add to this knowledge by reporting your experience.

PEO and Guar GumEdit

Many people experiment with mixes that use these polymers. There are two main types of mixes with these polymers:

  • mixes where one polymer is primary and only a trace amount of the second polymer is used
  • mixes where both polymers are used at levels approaching those at which they would normally be used on their own

Some people use PEO as the primary polymer and a small amount of guar gum. Others use guar gum as the primary polymer and a tiny amount of PEO. The consensus seems to be that if one of these polymers is primary and only a trace amount of the other is used as a secondary that the mix behaves fine. However, blind testing seems to indicate that in these cases the mix performs no better than if the primary polymer were used alone. A small amount of the secondary doesn't seem to hurt the mix, but it also doesn't seem to help it.

The second case, where both polymers are used in large enough quantities to be effective on their own, seems to be problematic.

The general conclusion is that guar gum won't make a well-tuned PEO mix better. If large enough quantities of guar gum are used to influence the flow rate (viscosity) of the juice, the result tends to be less effective than a well-tuned PEO mix. The same is true of the reverse case. PEO seems not to improve (and actually seems to hurt) a well-tuned guar gum mix. PEO can benefit a poorly-tuned guar gum mix.

If you find a combination of these two polymers that performs better than a well-tuned mix of either polymer on their own, please let us know by adding your comment or adding a recipe page.

EDITOR: NOTES-TO-SELFEdit

[EDITOR: THIS ARTICLE NEEDS MORE WORK AND YOU NEED TO PUBLISH THE STUDIES SHOWING THAT PEO/HPMC/CMC MIXES ARE CERTAINLY NO WORSE -- EVEN IN DRY WEATHER -- THAN A WELL-TUNED PEO MIX).

Find other PEO vs. PHC trial from around 2012 09 30

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