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BETTER BUBBLES

By Brett Israel

Anyone who has blown a bubble and seen how quickly it pops has firsthand experience with the major challenge in creating stable foams.

At its most basic level, foam is a bunch of bubbles squished together. Liquid foams, a state of matter that arises from tiny gas bubbles dispersed in a liquid, are familiar in everyday life, from beer to bathwater. They also are important in commercial products and processes, including pharmaceutical formulation, oil production, food processing, cleaning products, cosmetics, and hair and skincare products.

Lightweight dry foams for the construction of buildings, automobiles, and airplanes are key to energy efficiency.

But making lightweight foam has one big challenge: keeping the foam stable.

Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new type of foam — called capillary foam — that solves that problem. The research shows for the first time that the combined presence of particles and a small amount of oil in water-based foams can lead to exceptional foam stability.

“It’s very difficult to stabilize foams, and we want foams that are stable for months or years,” said Sven Behrens, a professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.

The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Better bubbles
Photo: Gary Meek

Georgia Tech is home to more than 2,500 faculty members who conduct scientific and engineering research in hundreds of different research areas.

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