Probing the Mechanical Strength of an Armored Bubble and Its Implication to Particle-Stabilized Foams

Abstract : Bubbles are dynamic objects that grow and rise or shrink and disappear, often on the scale of seconds. This conflicts with their uses in foams where they serve to modify the properties of the material in which they are embedded. Coating the bubble surface with solid particles has been demonstrated to strongly enhance the foam stability, although the mechanisms for such stabilization remain mysterious. In this paper, we reduce the problem of foam stability to the study of the behavior of a single spherical bubble coated with a monolayer of solid particles. The behavior of this armored bubble is monitored while the ambient pressure around it is varied, in order to simulate the dissolution stress resulting from the surrounding foam. We find that above a critical stress, localized dislocations appear on the armor and lead to a global loss of the mechanical stability. Once these dislocations appear, the armor is unable to prevent the dissolution of the gas into the surrounding liquid, which translates into a continued reduction of the bubble volume, even for a fixed overpressure. The observed route to the armor failure therefore begins from localized dislocations that lead to large-scale deformations of the shell until the bubble completely dissolves. The critical value of the ambient pressure that leads to the failure depends on the bubble radius, with a scaling of ΔPcollapse∝R−1, but does not depend on the particle diameter. These results disagree with the generally used elastic models to describe particle-covered interfaces. Instead, the experimental measurements are accounted for by an original theoretical description that equilibrates the energy gained from the gas dissolution with the capillary energy cost of displacing the individual particles. The model recovers the short-wavelength instability, the scaling of the collapse pressure with bubble radius, and the insensitivity to particle diameter. Finally, we use this new microscopic understanding to predict the aging of particle-stabilized foams, by applying classical Ostwald ripening models. We find that the smallest armored bubbles should fail, as the dissolution stress on these bubbles increases more rapidly than the armor strength. Both the experimental and theoretical results can readily be generalized to more complex particle interactions and shell structures.
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Nicolas Taccoen, François Lequeux, Deniz Z. Gunes, Charles N. Baroud. Probing the Mechanical Strength of an Armored Bubble and Its Implication to Particle-Stabilized Foams. Physical Review X, American Physical Society, 2016, 6 (1), pp.011010. ⟨10.1103/PhysRevX.6.011010⟩. ⟨hal-01311171⟩

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