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It occurs when a small gas bubble is acoustically suspended and periodically driven in a liquid solution at ultrasonic frequencies, resulting in bubble collapse, cavitation, and light emission. The thermal energy that is released from the bubble collapse is so great that it can cause weak light emission.

The mechanism of the light emission remains uncertain, but some of the current theories, which are categorized under either thermal or electrical processes, are Bremsstrahlung radiation, argon rectification hypothesis, and hot spot. Some researchers are beginning to favor thermal process explanations as temperature differences have consistently been observed with different methods of spectral analysis In order to understand the light emission mechanism, it is important to know what is happening in the bubble's interior and at the bubble's surface.

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