A bath sponge and the head on a glass of beer are examples of foams. In most foams, the volume of gas is large, with thin films of liquid or solid separating the regions of gas. Soap foams are also known as suds.
One scale is the bubble: material foams are typically disordered and have a variety of bubble sizes. At larger sizes, the study of idealized foams is closely linked to the mathematical problems of minimal surfaces and three-dimensional tessellations, also called honeycombs. The Weaire–Phelan structure is considered the best possible (optimal) unit cell of a perfectly ordered foam, while Plateau's laws describe how soap-films form structures in foams.
Solid foams, both open-cell and closed-cell, are considered as a sub-class of cellular structures. They often have lower nodal connectivity as compared to other cellular structures like honeycombs and truss lattices, and thus, their failure mechanism is dominated by bending of members. Low nodal connectivity and the resulting failure mechanism ultimately lead to their lower mechanical strength and stiffness compared to honeycombs and truss lattices.
The Marangoni effect depends on the liquid that is foaming being impure. Generally, surfactants in the solution decrease the surface tension. The surfactants also clump together on the surface and form a layer as shown below.
Foam destabilization occurs for several reasons. First, gravitation causes drainage of liquid to the foam base, which Rybczynski and Hadamar include in their theory; however, foam also destabilizes due to osmotic pressure causes drainage from the lamellas to the Plateau borders due to internal concentration differences in the foam, and Laplace pressure causes diffusion of gas from small to large bubbles due to pressure difference. In addition, films can break under disjoining pressure, These effects can lead to rearrangement of the foam structure at scales larger than the bubbles, which may be individual (T1 process) or collective (even of the "avalanche" type).
Being a multiscale system involving many phenomena, and a versatile medium, foam can be studied using many different techniques. Considering the different scales, experimental techniques are diffraction ones, mainly light scattering techniques (DWS, see below, static and dynamic light scattering, X rays and neutron scattering) at sub-micrometer scales, or microscopic ones. Considering the system as continuous, its bulk properties can be characterized by light transmittance but also conductimetry. The correlation between structure and bulk is evidenced more accurately by acoustics in particular. The organisation between bubbles has been studied numerically using sequential attempts of evolution of the minimum surface energy either at random (Pott's model) or deterministic way (surface evolver). The evolution with time (i.e., the dynamics) can be simulated using these models, or the bubble model (Durian), which considers the motion of individual bubbles.
In some ways, leavened bread is a foam, as the yeast causes the bread to rise by producing tiny bubbles of gas in the dough. The dough has traditionally been understood as a closed-cell foam, in which the pores do not connect with each other. Cutting the dough releases the gas in the bubbles that are cut, but the gas in the rest of the dough cannot escape. When dough is allowed to rise too far, it becomes an open-cell foam, in which the gas pockets are connected. Now, if the dough is cut or the surface otherwise broken, a large volume of gas can escape, and the dough collapses. The open structure of an over-risen dough is easy to observe: instead of consisting of discrete gas bubbles, the dough consists of a gas space filled with threads of the flour-water paste. Recent research has indicated that the pore structure in bread is 99% interconnected into one large vacuole, thus the closed-cell foam of the moist dough is transformed into an open cell solid foam in the bread.
Closed-cell foams do not have interconnected pores. The closed-cell foams normally have higher compressive strength due to their structures. However, closed-cell foams are also, in general more dense, require more material, and as a consequence are more expensive to produce. The closed cells can be filled with a specialized gas to provide improved insulation. The closed-cell structure foams have higher dimensional stability, low moisture absorption coefficients, and higher strength compared to open-cell-structured foams. All types of foam are widely used as core material in sandwich-structured composite materials.