Skip to main content
Engineering LibreTexts

4.6.2: Surface Tension

The surface tension is one of the mathematically complex topic and related to many phenomena like boiling, coating, etc. In this section, only simplified topics like constant value will be discussed. In one of the early studies of the surface tension/pressure was done by Torricelli. In this study he suggest construction of the early barometer. In barometer is made from a tube sealed on one side. The tube is filled with a liquid and turned upside down into the liquid container. The main effect is the pressure difference between the two surfaces (in the tube and out side the tune). However, the surface tension affects the high. This effect is large for very small diameters.

Example 4.31:

In interaction of the molecules shown in Figure ? describe the existence of surface tension. Explain why this description is erroneous?

Solution 4.31:

The upper layer of the molecules have unbalanced force towards the liquid phase. Newton's law states when there is unbalanced force, the body should be accelerate. However, in this case, the liquid is not in motion. Thus, the common explanation is wrong.


Fig. 4.47. A heavy needle is floating on a liquid.

Example 4.32:

Needle is made of steel and is heavier than water and many other liquids. However, the surface tension between the needle and the liquid hold the needle above the liquid. After certain diameter, the needle cannot be held by the liquid. Calculate the maximum diameter needle that can be inserted into liquid without drowning.

Solution 4.32:

Under Construction


  • Dr. Genick Bar-Meir. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or later or Potto license.