Soap Film Experiments in Microgravity

Aug 05, 2005
Soap Film Experiments in microgravity

Four TCD theoretical physics undergraduates have returned from Bordeaux having completed a foam physics experiment in zero gravity with the European Space Agency.

Team Members: David Barrett, Mathew Dolan, Seán Kelly, E.J.Daly

The students flew in a 30 year old Boeing Airbus A300 prototype which performed a parabolic manoeuvre. This involves pulling the plane up to a 47 degree angle at maximum speed before free falling from the sky through 4000 feet. During this drop there is a 20 second period of weightlessness onboard. This microgravity period allowed them to perform their experiment.

There investigation is the continuation of wire frame experiments conducted by Belgian physicist Plateau in the 1840’s. The students formed a soap film in a cubic wire frame and then injected liquid into the Plateau Borders (film intersections) during microgravity. This allowed them to observe the transition from a dry film configuration to a wet configuration. These are the first microgravity experiments of there kind.

The students are studying wet soap films as part of a wider program of foam physics research in Trinity. Wet foams are not well understood as they are nearly impossible to study under gravity because of gravity driven drainage of liquid between the bubbles. Wet foams are important in the materials industry- metallic wet foams have a high strength to mass ratio, 10 times greater than steel.

Every year ESA gives 30 student teams from Europe and Canada this opportunity to experiment in zero gravity. The four TCD students are the first Irish team to be selected by ESA.

Explore further: A 'movie' of ultrafast rotating molecules at a hundred billion per second

Related Stories

Modeling how thin films break up

Jun 19, 2015

Excess surface energy from unsatisfied bonds is a significant driver of dimensional changes in thin-film materials, whether formation of holes, contracting edges, or run-away corners. In general, this break-up ...

Engineered proteins stick like glue—even in water

Sep 21, 2014

Shellfish such as mussels and barnacles secrete very sticky proteins that help them cling to rocks or ship hulls, even underwater. Inspired by these natural adhesives, a team of MIT engineers has designed ...

Recommended for you

To conduct, or to insulate? That is the question

Jul 02, 2015

A new study has discovered mysterious behaviour of a material that acts like an insulator in certain measurements, but simultaneously acts like a conductor in others. In an insulator, electrons are largely stuck in one place, ...

Soundproofing with quantum physics

Jul 02, 2015

Sebastian Huber and his colleagues show that the road from abstract theory to practical applications needn't always be very long. Their mechanical implementation of a quantum mechanical phenomenon could soon ...

Extreme lab at European X-ray laser XFEL is a go

Jul 02, 2015

The Helmholtz Senate has given the green light for the Association's involvement in the Helmholtz International Beamline (HIB), a new kind of experimentation station at the X-ray laser European XFEL in Hamburg, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.