Drop Tower Setup to Study the Diffusion-driven Growth of a Foam Ball in Supersaturated Liquids in Microgravity Conditions


The diffusion-driven growth of a foam ball is a phenomenon that appears in many manufacturing process as well as in a variety of geological phenomena. Usually these processes are greatly affected by gravity, as foam is much lighter than the surrounding liquid. However, the growth of the foam free of gravity effects is still very relevant, as it is connected to manufacturing in space and to the formation of rocks in meteorites and other small celestial bodies. The aim of this research is to investigate experimentally the growth of a bubble cloud growing in a gas-supersaturated liquid in microgravity conditions. Here, we describe the experiments carried out in the drop tower of the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM). In few words, a foam seed is formed with spark-induced cavitation in carbonated water, whose time evolution is recorded with two high-speed cameras. Our preliminary results shed some light on how the size of the foam ball scales with time, in particular at times much longer than what could be studied in normal conditions, i.e. on the surface of the Earth, where the dynamics of the foam is already dominated by gravity after several milliseconds.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7


  1. Barrett, D.G.T., Kelly, S., Daly, E.J., Dolan, M.J., Drenckhan, W., Weaire, D., Hutzler, S.: Taking plateau into microgravity: The formation of an eightfold vertex in a system of soap films. Microgravity Sci. Tech. 20, 17–22 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Brennen, C.E.: Cavitation and Bubble Dynamics. Oxford University Press, New York (1995)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Cox, S.J., Verbist, G.: Liquid flow in foams under microgravity. Microgravity Sci. Tech. 14, 45–52 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Durian, D.J., Weitz, D.A., Pine, D.J.: Scaling behavior in shaving cream. Phys. Rev. A. 44, R7902–7906 (1991)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Ehl, R.G., Ihde, A.: Faraday’s electrochemical laws and the determination of equivalent weights. J. Chem. Edu. 31, 226–232 (1954)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Enríquez, O.R.: Growing Bubbles and Freezing Drops: Depletion Effects and Tip Singularities. University of Twente, PhD Thesis (2015)

  7. Enríquez, O.R., Hummelink, C., Bruggertm, G.-W., Lohse, D., van der Meer, A., Prosperetiand D., Sun, C.: Growing bubbles in a slightly supersaturated liquid solution. Rev. Sci. Instruments. 84, 065111 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Epstein, P.S., Plesset, M.S.: Stability of gas bubbles in liquid-gas solutions. J. Chem. Phys. 18, 1505–1509 (1950)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Goh, B.H.T., Oh, Y.D.A., Klaseboer, E., Ohl, S.W., Khoo, B.C.: A low-voltage spark-discharge method for generation of consistent oscillating bubbles. Rev. Sci. Instr. 84, 014705 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Harrison, K., Levene, J.I.: Electrolysis of Water Solar Hydrogen Generation. Springer, New York (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Homan, T., Gjaltema, C., Van Der Meer, D.: Collapsing granular beds: The role of interstitial air. Phys. Rev. E. 89, 052204 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Medina-Palomo, A.: Experimental and Analytical Study of the Interaction between Short Acoustic Pulses and Small Clouds of Microbubbles. Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, PhD thesis (2015)

  13. Obreschkow, D., Tinguely, M., Dorsaz, N., Kobel, P., de Bosset, A., Farhat, M.: Universal scaling law for jets of collapsing bubbles. Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 204501 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Rodríguez-Rodríguez, J., Casado-Chacón, A., Fuster, D.: Physics of beer tapping. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 214501 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Saint-Jalmes, A., Marze, S., Safouane, M., Langevin, D.: Foam experiments in parabolic flights: Development of an iss facility and capillary drainage experiments. Microgravity Sci. Tech. 18, 22–30 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Scriven, L.E.: On the dynamic of phase growth. Chem. Eng. Sci. 10, 1–13 (1959)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Strong, F.C.: Faraday’s laws in one equation. J. Chem. Edu. 38, 98 (1961)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Stuart, F.M., Harrop, P.J., Knott, S., Turner, G.: Laser extraction of helium isotopes from antarctic micrometeorites: Source of he and implications for the flux of extraterrestrial (3)he to earth. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 63, 2653–2665 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Willert, C., Stasicki, B., Klinner, J., Moessner, S.: Pulsed operation of high-power light-emitting diodes for imaging flowvelocimetry. Meas. Sci. Technol. 21, 075402 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank the team from the ZARM Drop Tower Operation and Service Company (ZARM FAB mbH) for valuable technical support during the finalization of the setup and the measurement campaign. The European Space Agency is acknowledged for providing access to the drop tower through grant HSO/US/2015-29/AO ”Diffusion-driven growth of a dense bubble cloud in supersaturated liquids under microgravity conditions”. This work was supported by the Netherlands Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion (MCEC), an NWO Gravitation programme funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the government of the Netherlands. Finally, we wish to thank the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness for supporting the building of the experimental facility through grants DPI2014-59292-C3-1-P and DPI2015-71901-REDT, partly funded through European Funds.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patricia Vega-Martínez.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vega-Martínez, P., Rodríguez-Rodríguez, J., van der Meer, D. et al. Drop Tower Setup to Study the Diffusion-driven Growth of a Foam Ball in Supersaturated Liquids in Microgravity Conditions. Microgravity Sci. Technol. 29, 297–304 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12217-017-9547-8

Download citation


  • Foam
  • Mass transfer