Mix a drop of water into a vial of oil. With some surfactant and a vigorous shake, that one droplet has become thousands, and the total interfacial area has increased by an order of magnitude or more. Like the folded membranes in our mitochondria, the alveoli in our lungs, and the catalytic converters in our cars, oil-water emulsions contain a vast reservoir of interfacial area that can be used to control and transform the things that encounter it. The oil-water interface is especially well-suited to directing the assembly of colloidal particles, which bind to it rapidly and often irreversibly.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(10)70107-3