Foam Optics And Mechanics - Stability (Foam-Stability) - 09.17.14

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FOAM-Stability studies the behavior of wet foams in microgravity conditions.

Science Results for Everyone

Space-based shaving cream fights would be epic: foams last a long time in microgravity. Researchers examined foams with liquid fractions around 30 percent, which enables bubbles to keep their spherical shape.  In most cases, the volume fraction occupied by foam alone is almost two times larger in microgravity, allowing creation of super-stable aqueous foams. Antifoaming agents have reduced effect in microgravity and the resulting foam appears to be stable. This was unexpected since anti-foaming agents are meant to prevent foam creation and stabilization, so the observations raise questions for future investigation.

The following content was provided by N Vandewalle, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Information provided courtesy of the Erasmus Experiment Archive.

Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)

  • N Vandewalle, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • S. Cohen-Addad, France
  • O Pitois, Universite Paris Est, Marne-la-Vallee, France
  • A L. Biance, Universite Paris Est, Marne-la-Vallee, France
  • Douglas Durian, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • H Caps, University of Liege, Belgium
  • Dominique Langevin, Universite Paris-Sud, Orsay, France
  • Denis Weaire, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
  • S Hutzler, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
  • A Saint-Jalmes, Universite Rennes, France
  • M Adler, Universite Paris Est, Marne-la-Vallee, France
  • R Hohler, Universite Paris Est, Marne-la-Vallee, France

  • Developer(s)
    Information Pending
    Sponsoring Space Agency
    European Space Agency (ESA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Information Pending

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    March 2009 - March 2010

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions
    Information Pending

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • FOAM-Stability studies aqueous and non-aqueous foams in microgravity environment. The behavior of foams in microgravity and on earth are very different, because the process of drainage is absent in microgravity conditions.

    • Other fundamental questions addressed are:
      • How long can those foams be stable?

      • What is the role of solid particles in the liquid in water foam stabilization?

      • Is it possible to create very "wet" foams in microgravity?

    Information Pending

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    Space Applications
    Information Pending

    Earth Applications
    Information Pending

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    Operational Requirements
    Information Pending

    Operational Protocols
    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

    The main process which controls the stability of a foam on Earth is the gravity drainage which eventually causes film thinning of the bubbles toward a critical thickness at which they become unstable and burst. This process is not a factor in microgravity and foams containing large amounts of liquid can be studied for longer time. Foam experiments in space allow researchers to explore a new sort of very "wet" foams with liquid fractions around 30%. The high liquid fraction enables bubbles to keep their spherical shape. On Earth, such materials are unstable and most of the time not called foams but bubbly liquid. In space, drainage is suppressed such that liquid films remains thick, but bubble coalescence events are nevertheless seen. However, after some time, bubble motions become rare events such that the foam is more stable even when shaken. In most cases, the foamability (the volume fraction occupied by the foam only) is almost two times larger on the ISS than on Earth. A striking and unexpected result is that a non-foaming solution on Earth exhibits a significant foam column in space.

    From the FOAM-S experiment, it is discovered that super stable aqueous foams can be created in microgravity conditions. On Earth, coarsening and film ruptures are always present for a solution even with foaming agents. In zero gravity, the foam still evolves but the amount of foam does not appear to change significantly. Surprisingly, antifoaming agents have a reduced effect in microgravity, and the resulting foam appears to be stable. This behavior was completely unexpected since anti-foaming agents are meant to avoid foam creation and stabilization. These observations raise new fundamental questions that should be investigated in future works (Vandewalle et al. 2011).

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

      Banhart J, Garcia-Moreno F, Hutzler S, Langevin D, Liggieri L, Miller R, Saint-Jalmes A, Weaire D.  Foams and emulsions in space. Europhysics News. 2008 July 26; 39(4): 26-28. DOI: 10.1051/epn:2008402.

      Carpy R, Picker G, Amann B, Ranebo H, Vincent-Bonnieu S, Minster O, Winter J, Dettmann J, Castiglione L, Höhler R, Langevin D.  Foam generation and sample composition optimization for the FOAM-C experiment of the ISS. Journal of Physics: Conference Series. 2011 December 6; 327: 012025. DOI: 10.1088/1742-6596/327/1/012025.

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    Related Websites
    ISS Research Project-FOAM-Stability

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    image NASA Image: ISS020E042309 - Expedition 20 flight engineer, Frank De Winne is pictured near an ESA Foam Stability experiment floating freely in the Columbus laboratory of the International Space Station.
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