Surface Tension – Definition
What is Surface Tension?
Surface tension, property of a liquid surface displayed by its acting as a stretched elastic membrane just like a balloon. This phenomenon can be observed in the nearly spherical shape of small drops of liquids and of soap bubbles. Because of this property, certain insects can stand on the surface of the water.
The cohesive forces (attractive forces) between liquid molecules are responsible for the phenomenon known as surface tension. The molecules at the surface of a glass of water do not have other water molecules on all sides of them and consequently, they cohere more strongly to those directly associated with them.
Water molecules want to cling to each other. At the surface, however, there are fewer water molecules to cling to since there is air above (thus, no water molecules). This results in a stronger bond between those molecules that actually do come in contact with one another, and a layer of strongly bonded water. This surface layer (held together by surface tension) creates a considerable barrier between the atmosphere and the water. In fact, other than mercury, water has the greatest surface tension of any liquid.
Due to the surface tension, small objects will “float” on the surface of a fluid, as long as the object cannot break through and separate the top layer of water molecules. When an object is on the surface of the fluid, the surface under tension will behave like an elastic membrane.