To understand the mechanics underlying wrinkling, polymer scientists float a thin plastic film on water and place a tiny droplet on top of the film in this image. At the boundary of the film and droplet, three materials meet - water, plastic film, and air - forming a three-phase contact line which places tension on the thin polymer film and creates the wrinkle. Usually, a circular wrinkle pattern forms around the droplet, but here the film on one side of the droplet is intentionally cut causing the wrinkles to vanish in this area and giving rise to the “winged” pattern. Unlocking the mechanisms of wrinkling will help develop a range of products including nanoelectronics. Learn more.
Photo credit: Kamil Bugra Toga/Russell Research Group, courtesy of Visual Image Library