Insights into how minute, yet powerful, bubbles form and collapse on underwater surfaces could help make industrial structures such as ship propellers more hardwearing, research suggests.

Supercomputer calculations have revealed details of the growth of so-called nanobubbles, which are tens of thousands of times smaller than a pin head.

The findings could lend valuable insight into damage caused on industrial structures, such as pump components, when these bubbles burst to release tiny but powerful jets of liquid.

This rapid expansion and collapse of bubbles, known as cavitation, is a common problem in engineering but is not well understood.

Engineers at the University of Edinburgh devised complex simulations of air bubbles in water, using the UK's national supercomputer.

The team modelled the motion of atoms in the bubbles and observed how they grew in response to small drops in water pressure.

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