Unusual foam structure and dynamics with a viscoelastic continuous phase

Foams are unstable jammed materials. They evolve over timescales comparable to their “time of use”, which makes the study of their destabilisation mechanisms crucial for applications. In practice, many foams are made from viscoelastic fluids, which are observed to prolong their lifetimes. Despite their importance, we lack understanding of the coarsening mechanism in such systems. We probe the effect of continuous phase viscoelasticity on foam coarsening with foamed emulsions. We show that bubble size evolution is strongly slowed down and foam structure hugely impacted. The main mechanisms responsible are the absence of continuous phase redistribution and a non-trivial link between foam structure and mechanical properties. These combine to give spatially heterogeneous coarsening. Beyond their importance in the design of foamy materials, the results give a macroscopic vision of phase separation in a viscoelastic medium.

This work is published in Nature Communications (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-36763-y)