Intermittent dynamics of bubble dissolution due to interfacial growth of fat crystals†
Foams are inherently unstable objects, that age and disappear over time. The main cause of foam aging is Ostwald ripening: smaller air bubbles within the foam empty their gas content into larger ones. One strategy to counter Ostwald ripening consists in creating armored bubbles, where solid particles adsorbed at the air/liquid interface prevent bubbles from shrinking below a given size. Here, we study the efficiency of coating air bubbles with fat crystals to prevent bubble dissolution. A monoglyceride, monostearin, is directly crystallized at the air/oil interface. Experiments on single bubbles in a microfluidic device show that the presence of monostearin fat crystals slows down dissolution, with an efficiency that depends on the crystal size. Bubble ripening in the presence of crystals exhibits intermittent dissolution dynamics, with phases of arrest, when crystals jam at the interface, followed by phases of dissolution, when monostearin crystals are ejected from the interface. In the end, crystals do not confer enough mechanical strength to the bubbles to prevent them from fully dissolving.