Optimising structures within complex arrangements of bubbles (Vol. 50, No. 5-6)

Optimising structures within complex arrangements of bubbles
Optimising an arrangement of five bubbles.

Computer simulations reveal the secret to stronger, cheaper structures shaped like bubbly foams.

While structures which emulate foam-like arrangements of bubbles are lightweight and cheap to build, they are also remarkably stable. The bubbles which cover the iconic Beijing Aquatics Centre, for example, each have the same volume, but are arranged in a way which minimises the total area of the structure – optimising the building’s construction. The mathematics underlying this behaviour is now well understood, but if the areas of the bubbles are not equal, the situation becomes more complicated. Ultimately, this makes it harder to make general statements about how the total surface area or, in 2D, edge length, or ‘perimeter’, can be minimised to optimise structural stability. In new research published recently, the authors explore how different numbers of 2D bubbles of two different areas can be arranged within circular discs, in ways which minimise their perimeters.

F. Headley, and S. Cox, Least-perimeter partition of the disc into N bubbles of two different areas, Eur. Phys. J. E 42, 92 (2019)