On the microstructure of open-cell foams and its effect on elastic properties

Wen-Yea Jang, Andrew M. Kraynik, Stelios Kyriakides*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

241 Scopus citations


Synthetic open-cell foams have a complex microstructure consisting of an interconnected network of cells resulting from the foaming process. The cells are irregular polyhedra with anywhere from 9 to 17 faces in nearly monodisperse foams. The material is concentrated in the nearly straight ligaments and in the nodes where they intersect. The mechanical properties of such foams are governed by their microstructure and by the properties of the base material. In this study micro-computed X-ray tomography is used to develop 3D images of the morphology of polyester urethane and Duocel aluminum foams with different average cell sizes. The images are used to establish statistically the cell size and ligament length distributions, material distributions along the ligaments, the geometry of the nodes and cell anisotropy. The measurements are then used to build finite element foam models of increasing complexity that are used to estimate the elastic moduli. In the most idealized model the microstructure is represented as a regular Kelvin cell. The most realistic models are based on Surface Evolver simulations of random soap froth with N3 cells in spatially periodic domains. In all models the cells are elongated in one direction, the ligaments are straight but have a nonuniform cross sectional area distribution and are modeled as shear deformable beams. With this input both the Kelvin cell models and the larger random foam models are shown to predict the elastic moduli with good accuracy but the random foams are 5-10% stiffer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1845-1875
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Solids and Structures
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2008


  • Elastic properties
  • Microstructure
  • Open-cell foams

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