Liquid nanofoam (LN) as a novel material for energy absorption applications exhibits superior properties, including high energy absorption efficiency, ultra-fast energy dissipation, light weight and small size, over existing options. It is a liquid suspension of nanoporous particles, whose nanopore surface is non-wettable to the liquid molecules. Past studies on LN have focused on quasi-static responses, and the actual system performance under dynamic loadings has remained unclear. In this study, the mechanical behavior of two types of LN samples at various strain rates and the liquid flow speed in the nanopores have been experimentally investigated.

The quasi-static behavior of LN is rigorously characterized by an Instron 5982 universal tester, from which we find that large amount of energy is dissipated into heat due to the effective excess solid-liquid interfacial tension, and confirm that the energy absorption efficiency of the LN is determined by the liquid infiltration pressure and the total deformability.

The dynamic behavior of the LN is investigated by impacting it with a lab-customized drop tower apparatus at intermediate strain rates (around 102 s−1), from which the measured strain-stress curves are highly hysteretic. By comparing with the quasi-static sorption isotherm curve, we show that the liquid infiltration pressure as well as the total deformability of the LN sample in liquid marble form is not affected by the increased strain rate. This suggests that the dynamic behavior of LN can be characterized by quasi-static compressive tests.

In the dynamic tests, the ultra-fast energy dissipation rate of LN indicates that the real liquid flow speed in nanopores is much higher than that predicted by the continuum theory. The flow speed can be directly measured from the strain rate by considering the total surface area of the nanoporous particles exposed to the liquid phase. The flow speed is related to the external remote pressure and the 3D porous structure of nanoporous particles.

We have examined for the first time the dynamic behaviors of LN, and demonstrated the energy absorption capacity of LN can be activated at desired pressure range by virtue of the strain rate-independent liquid infiltration behavior. This is the first experimental approach to characterize the liquid flow speed in nano-environment. These findings provide strong evidence supporting the potential application of LNs to mitigate energy in blunt impact scenarios such as head to head and head to shoulder collisions in sports, traffic accidents and ballistic impact.

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