Disappearing Coloured Bubbles

Chemical burns, ruined clothes, eleven years, half a million dollars — it’s not easy to improve the world’s most popular toy. Yet the success of Tim Kehoe’s quest to dye a simple soap bubble may change the way the world uses colour

When Kehoe isn’t blowing bubbles for businessmen, he’s at home inventing again, coming up with new uses for the disappearing dye, the importance of which is hard to overstate. For decades, the color industry has been focused entirely on color fastness. No one has really thought about the potential of temporary color. That the dye was created for children’s bubbles may turn out to be just a footnote, a funny story Sabnis tells at color-chemist conventions.

Among the ideas Kehoe has already mocked up are a finger paint that fades from every surface except a special paper, a hair dye that vanishes in a few hours, and disappearing-graffiti spray paint. There’s a toothpaste that would turn kids’ mouths a bright color until they had brushed for the requisite 30 seconds, and a soap that would do the same for hand washing.

He’s also thinking outside the toy chest, mucking around in the lab on weekends making things like a Swiffer that leaves a momentary trace showing where you’ve Swiffered and a temporary wall paint that would let you spend a few hours with a color before committing to it. The dye’s reach is so great that there are even biotech and industrial uses being discussed. We’ve got stuff in the works I can’t talk about that’ll blow bubbles away, he says excitedly. It might take years, but, knowing Tim Kehoe, we’ll see them eventually. After all, it’s only a little extra work.

The 11-Year Quest to Create Disappearing Colored BubblesPopular Science (via Column of the Wolf)

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