Bubbles in a pure liquid don’t last long, but with added surfactants or multiple miscible liquids, bubbles can form long-lasting foams. In soapy foams, surfactants provide the surface tension gradients necessary to keep the thin liquid layers between bubbles from popping. But what stabilizes a surfactant-free foam?
New work finds that foams in mixtures of two miscible fluids only form when the surface tension depends nonlinearly on the concentration of the component liquids. When this is true, thinning the wall between bubbles creates changes in surface tension that stabilize the barrier and keep it from popping.
In mixtures without this nonlinearity, foams just won’t form. The new results are valuable for manufacturing, where companies can avoid unintentional foams simply by careful selection of their fluids. (Image credit: G. Trovato; research credit: H. Tran et al.; via APS Physics; see also Ars Technica, submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)
Starfish won’t win any sprints, but they’re actually quite good at moving around as they hunt for prey. Without brains, starfish are led by their feet, which pull in the direction of food they scent. Each foot is connected to what amounts to an internal hydraulic system within the starfish. With a combination of secreted adhesive and pumping, the starfish can trundle along. (Image and video credit: Deep Look)
In the decade since the Deepwater Horizons oil spill, scientists have been working hard to understand the intricacies of how liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons behave underwater. The high pressures, low temperatures, and varying density of the surrounding ocean water all complicate the situation.
Released hydrocarbons form a plume made up of oil drops and gas bubbles of many sizes. Large drops and bubbles rise relatively quickly due to their buoyancy, so they remain confined to a relatively small area around the leak. Smaller drops are slower to rise and can instead get picked up by ocean currents, allowing them to spread. The smallest micro-droplets of oil hardly rise at all; instead they remained trapped in the water column, where currents can move them tens to hundreds of kilometers from their point of release. (Image and research credit: M. Boufadel et al.; via AGU Eos; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)
This gorgeous photograph of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds was taken in late December in Slovenia by Gregor Riačevič. The wave-like shape of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability comes from shear between two fluid layers moving at different relative speeds. Here on Earth, clouds like these are often short-lived, but we see similar structures in the atmospheres of gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. (Image credit: G. Riačevič; submitted by Matevz D.)