Ordered Cylindrical Structures


Foams are not only appealing due to the elegant structures they display, and which is show-cased in many of Kym Cox's photographs. To the scientist they also offer a variety of intriguing problems. How can foam structure be described mathematically? How can one deal with the apparent randomness? What are the underlying physical principles? How does the structure determine the physical properties of foam? Think of shaving foam. Consisting of gas and liquid it nevertheless doesn't flow, but when left on its own displays rigidity and stands upright. Think of Guinness foam. Why is it creamy white when the beer it consists of is so dark? And how does that pint settle?

The Foams and Complex Systems group at, led by Prof. Stefan Hutzler, explores all of the above aspects by means of experiment, theory, and computation. The group has been at the forefront of research into the physics of foams since the 1980s when Prof. Denis Weaire established foam physics at Trinity College Dublin. In our recent collaboration with Kym we aim to explore foams that are generally not found in nature. We experiment with foams where all bubbles are identical in size. This may result in spontaneous crystallization where the bubbles arrange into ordered structures, very unlike the random mess one generally associates with a foam.

Our collaboration not only helps to visualize the aesthetics of such structures, but due to Kym's methodical approach we are already beginning to identify new scientific avenues which we are keen to explore.

Stefan Hutzler  May 2016