Materials science: Foam finesse

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    Colloids Surf. A: Physicochem. Eng. Aspects doi:10.1016/j.colsurfa.2009.05.010 (2009)

    When gas rushes through solidifying foam to create porous polymers — used worldwide in insulation, packaging and sponges — it randomly scatters into bubbles of varying size.

    Wiebke Drenckhan, a CNRS researcher at the University of Paris South, and her colleagues now report a way to create plastics filled with ordered and nearly uniform bubbles. The researchers combine chemical reagents, surfactants, air and water in such a way that bubbles form and pack together in the liquid phase just before the surrounding material 'freezes' in a polymerization reaction.

    Working with German chemicals company BASF, in Ludwigshafen, they have created bubble-stuffed foam sheets and threads that absorb water and can even be woven or knitted into fabrics (pictured above). Such foams might be used as membranes, acoustic filters or shear-resistant wraps for fibres containing carbon nanotubes.

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    Materials science: Foam finesse. Nature 460, 668 (2009) doi:10.1038/460668d

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