Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Getting the Drop

Creating new materials with potential biomedical applications by manipulating liquid plastic droplets

02 December 2018

Getting the Drop

Droplets are normally a menace to manufacturing – from architecture to engineering to cooking, dribbles forming where they shouldn’t have unpredictable effects. Here, scientists are showing drops of liquid plastic who’s boss – forcing them into patterns that may change our lives. Drops form after a tug-of-war between surface tension – the 'stickiness' of a surface – and gravity. Playing with these competing forces, by spinning these coated discs at different speeds, grows or shrinks the plastic drops (coloured purple). Changing the patterns etched into the surfaces leaves them clinging on in precise designs – some mimicking biological phenomena like the tiny ciliary carpets of hairs found in our airways. Creating such 'soft materials' usually requires expensive moulds, but here a quick spin may create structures to help deliver drugs, or support tissues inside our bodies.

Written by John Ankers

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