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Surface tension is defined as the energy required to increase the surface area of a liquid, or the force required to increase the length of a liquid surface by a given amount. This property results from the cohesive forces between molecules at the surface of a liquid, and it causes the surface of a liquid to behave like a stretched rubber membrane. Surface tensions of several liquids are presented in [link] . Among common liquids, water exhibits a distinctly high surface tension due to strong hydrogen bonding between its molecules. As a result of this high surface tension, the surface of water represents a relatively “tough skin” that can withstand considerable force without breaking. A steel needle carefully placed on water will float. Some insects, like the one shown in [link] , even though they are denser than water, move on its surface because they are supported by the surface tension.

Surface Tensions of Common Substances at 25 °C
Substance Formula Surface Tension (mN/m)
water H 2 O 71.99
mercury Hg 458.48
ethanol C 2 H 5 OH 21.97
octane C 8 H 18 21.14
ethylene glycol CH 2 (OH)CH 2 (OH) 47.99
A photo and a diagram as shown and a right-facing arrow leads from the photo to the image. The photo shows an insect standing on the surface of a sample of water. The image shows a square background that is two thirds covered in blue spheres that are closely packet together. A brown line starts at the upper left corner of the background and rests on top of the first row of spheres. The sphere directly under this low point of the line has four arrows drawn on it that face to both sides and downward. A sphere in the bottom center of the image has six arrows drawn on it that all face outward in different directions.
Surface tension (right) prevents this insect, a “water strider,” from sinking into the water.

The IMFs of attraction between two different molecules are called adhesive forces . Consider what happens when water comes into contact with some surface. If the adhesive forces between water molecules and the molecules of the surface are weak compared to the cohesive forces between the water molecules, the water does not “wet” the surface. For example, water does not wet waxed surfaces or many plastics such as polyethylene. Water forms drops on these surfaces because the cohesive forces within the drops are greater than the adhesive forces between the water and the plastic. Water spreads out on glass because the adhesive force between water and glass is greater than the cohesive forces within the water. When water is confined in a glass tube, its meniscus (surface) has a concave shape because the water wets the glass and creeps up the side of the tube. On the other hand, the cohesive forces between mercury atoms are much greater than the adhesive forces between mercury and glass. Mercury therefore does not wet glass, and it forms a convex meniscus when confined in a tube because the cohesive forces within the mercury tend to draw it into a drop ( [link] ).

This figure shows two test tubes. The test tube on the left contains mercury with a meniscus that rounds up. The test tube on the right contains water with a meniscus that rounds down.
Differences in the relative strengths of cohesive and adhesive forces result in different meniscus shapes for mercury (left) and water (right) in glass tubes. (credit: Mark Ott)

If you place one end of a paper towel in spilled wine, as shown in [link] , the liquid wicks up the paper towel. A similar process occurs in a cloth towel when you use it to dry off after a shower. These are examples of capillary action    —when a liquid flows within a porous material due to the attraction of the liquid molecules to the surface of the material and to other liquid molecules. The adhesive forces between the liquid and the porous material, combined with the cohesive forces within the liquid, may be strong enough to move the liquid upward against gravity.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how do you find theWhat are the wavelengths and energies per photon of two lines
caroline Reply
The eyes of some reptiles are sensitive to 850 nm light. If the minimum energy to trigger the receptor at this wavelength is 3.15 x 10-14 J, what is the minimum number of 850 nm photons that must hit the receptor in order for it to be triggered?
razzyd Reply
A teaspoon of the carbohydrate sucrose contains 16 calories, what is the mass of one teaspoo of sucrose if the average number of calories for carbohydrate is 4.1 calories/g?
ifunanya Reply
4. On the basis of dipole moments and/or hydrogen bonding, explain in a qualitative way the differences in the boiling points of acetone (56.2 °C) and 1-propanol (97.4 °C), which have similar molar masses
Kyndall Reply
Calculate the bond order for an ion with this configuration: (?2s)2(??2s)2(?2px)2(?2py,?2pz)4(??2py,??2pz)3
Gabe Reply
Which of the following will increase the percent of HF that is converted to the fluoride ion in water? (a) addition of NaOH (b) addition of HCl (c) addition of NaF
Tarun Reply
Practice Key Terms 5

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Source:  OpenStax, Ut austin - principles of chemistry. OpenStax CNX. Mar 31, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11830/1.13
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