Liquid Pearls

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Researchers create liquid pearls–a liquid droplet surrounded by a gel-like exterior–by dropping the fluid through a special bath. The initial droplet contains a mixture of the liquid core and an alginate solution. When the drop falls through a bath containing calcium ions, the alginate turns into a hydrogel shell around the liquid core. In order to prevent mixing during the droplet impact, researchers use a surfactant that helps the thin alginate layer persist while gelling takes place. The resulting liquid pearl is permeable to chemicals; researchers hope this may allow them to be used to contain microorganisms or cells in a three-dimensional environment during testing. (Video credit: New Scientist, N. Bremond et al.; see also Gallery of Fluid Motion)

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