Research

Falling Atop Sheets

A sphere falling into water is a classic problem in fluid dynamics, but scientists are becoming increasingly interested in what happens when they introduce new dimensions to the problem. Here researchers float an extremely thin elastic sheet atop water and study how it wrinkles when a steel sphere impacts it. Despite its elasticity, the sheet does not stretch when the ball hits. Instead it compresses and forms wrinkles. Some of those wrinkles deepen into folds, but the wrinkle pattern that forms right at impact determines the way the film will bunch up. If the ball is heavy enough, it will drag the sheet entirely underwater; if not, the sheet will catch the ball and continue floating. Scientists are interested in these interactions between liquids and thin solids because sheets could be used to encapsulate liquids for applications like targeted drug delivery. (Image credit: M. Inizan et al., source)

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