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Experimental and numerical studies on bubble dynamics in nonpressurized foaming systems



This work explores the influence of rheological properties on polymer foam development in nonpressurized systems. To understand the complex contributions of rheology on the mechanism of bubble growth during different stages of foam processing, visualization studies were conducted by using a polymer-foaming microscopy setup. The evolving cellular structure during foaming was analyzed for its bubble surface density, bubble size, total bubble projected area, and bubble size distribution. Morphological analysis was used to determine the rheological processing window in terms of shear viscosity, elastic modulus, melt strength and strain-hardening, intended for the production of foams with greater foam expansion, increased bubble density and reduced bubble size. A bubble growth model and simulation scheme was also developed to describe the bubble growth phenomena that occurred in nonpressurized foaming systems. Using thermophysical and rheological properties of polymer/gas mixtures, the growth profiles for bubbles were predicted and compared to experimentally observed data. It was verified that the viscous bubble growth model was capable of depicting the growth behaviors of bubbles under various processing conditions. Furthermore, the effects of thermophysical and rheological parameters on the bubble growth dynamics were demonstrated by a series of sensitivity studies. POLYM. ENG. SCI., 54:1947–1959, 2014. © 2013 Society of Plastics Engineers