Geometrically, biological tissues and two-dimensional layers of foam share a lot of similarities. To try and understand how active changes in one cell affect neighbors, researchers are studying how foams shift when air is injected (below) at one or more sites. When a foam cell expands, it forces topological changes in neighboring cells, which researchers built an algorithm to track in real-time.
With some processing, they can actually visualize the radially-expanding waves of strain that pass through the foam (bottom image). This allows them to visualize the effects and interaction of multiple injection sites at once, hopefully helping unlock the mechanics behind both the foam’s shifts and those that occur in tissues. (Image and video credit: L. Kroo and M. Prakash)