The properties of foams, an important class of cellular solids, are most sensitive to the volume fraction and openness of its elementary compartments; size, shape, orientation, and the interconnectedness of the cells are other important design attributes. Control of these morphological traits would allow the tailored fabrication of useful materials including highly porous solids, anisotropic heat conductors, tough composites, among others. While approaches like ice templating has produced foams with elongated cells, there is a need for rapid, versatile, and energy efficient methods that also control the local order and macroscopic alignment of cellular elements. Here we describe a fast and convenient method to obtain anisotropic structural foams using frontal polymerization. We fabricated foams by curing mixtures of dicyclopentadiene and a physical blowing agent via frontal ring opening metathesis polymerization (FROMP). The materials were characterized using micro-computed tomography and an image analysis protocol to quantify morphological characteristics including volume fraction and anisotropy. The cellular structure, porosity, and hardness of the foams changed with blowing agent, concentration, and resin viscosity. Moreover, we used a full factorial combination of variables to correlate each parameter with the structure of the obtained foams. We found a strong correlation between the resin viscosity and the foam’s cellular structure. Furthermore, a specific combination of input parameters controlled the transitions from (i) isotropic to anisotropic cellular structures, (ii) porous to non-porous, and (iii) soft to hard foams. Our results demonstrate the controlled production of foams with specific morphologies using the simple and efficient method of frontal polymerization. This work shows promise for creating foams with aligned cellular structures that allow anisotropic mass and energy transport properties in high performance structural solids.
-Materials and Instrumentation -Synthesis and Experimentation -Additional Figures