Foams are ubiquitous in our daily lives: they are used to produce food, detergents and plastics. Foams are inherently unstable in gravity, because the liquid between the bubbles is pulled downwards bursting the bubbles in the process. Experiments on the International Space Station have shown that foams are more stable in microgravity because they remain wet. It has even been possible to make foams from pure water.
Foam research in microgravity allows researchers to better understand the processes and calculate models in the most optimal conditions. This is leading to better production and assembly of products containing foams as well as more effective foam-suppression agents.
Many industrial applications benefit from foam research and development in space: cleaning products, cosmetics, fire-fighting and medicines are just some examples. The quality, texture, taste and shelf-life of food and beverages can be enhanced – from the supermarket to the consumers’ fridge.
"It is a game change for our business" says Cécile Gehin-Delval, from Nestlé Research Laboratories in Orbe, Switzerland.
The step to space research is closer than you might think. Get involved with spaceflight research via www.esa.int/spaceflightAO. Find out about our commercial partnerships and opportunities in human and robotic exploration via www.esa.int/explorationpartners to run your research in microgravity as well.