“Viscoelasticity Gives You Wings!”

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What happens when you drop a hydrogel bead on a water droplet? Because of the hydrogel’s viscoelasticity and its hydrophilic nature, the rebounding bead carries the droplet with it. As seen in the video above, when the impact energy is small enough, the droplet forms a reverse crown during lift-off, kind of like giving the hydrogel bead a skirt. The key feature for lift-off is the bead’s deformation on impact. Because the hydrogel widens at its base, it is sometimes able to push the entire droplet off its initial footprint and detach it from the surface. (Image, research, and video credit: R. Rabbi et al.)

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