Polyelectrolyte Enabled Liftoff (PEEL)) is a technology used to fabricate freestanding polymer films as thin as 10 nanometers that are capable of bearing loads ranging from milligrams to grams and deformations of up to 40 percent. PEEL employs robust, water-based and self-optimizing surface chemistry to fabricate ultrathin films up to 100 square centimeters or more in area. The process is easily scalable in size and manufacturing quantity and applicable to a variety of polymeric materials. PEEL provides an alternative to membrane manufacturing processes like interfacial polymerization, accessing thicknesses and areas that are not accessible by current technologies and may be used to fabricate freestanding polymer films for sensing, catalysis, filtration and wound-healing applications. The process is already in daily use at the National Ignition Facility, a national security and energy research facility, where it is used to fabricate compliant load-bearing polyvinyl formal membranes that capture and center the hollow fuel spheres used as laser targets.