Self-Wrapping Drops

A liquid drop can fold itself up in a thin sheet. The animation above shows a drop of water with an ultra-thin (79nm) circular sheet of polystyrene atop it. As a needle removes water from the underside of the droplet, the shrinking droplet causes wrinkles and folds to form in the sheet. What’s going on here is a competition between the energy required to change the droplet’s shape and the energy needed to bend the sheet. Eventually, the droplet’s volume is small enough that the bending of the sheet overrules surface tension in dictating the droplet’s shape. The result is a tiny empanada-shaped droplet completely encapsulated by the sheet. (Image credit: J. Paulsen et al., source; research paper)

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