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A polystyrene sheet that is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair is impacted by a falling oil droplet. The end result is droplet encapsulated by a flexible sheet.

Thin elastic sheets make surprisingly good wrappers for liquid droplets: surface tension will spontaneously pull an ultrathin sheet around a droplet, all while making efficient use of the sheet (see it in this short video clip by Science Magazine). The wrapper can be used for a variety of tasks: it provides a strong barrier for protecting the liquid cargo, it can deform the droplet into predictable shapes, and it provides a platform for adding a chemical pattern. But creating many such droplets requires a rapid and scalable process. A new technique uses droplet impact on a floating polymer film to achieve a tidy wrapping in a fraction of a second. The experiments were carried out by Deepak Kumar and Joseph Paulsen at UMass Amherst, and the results are published here.