eThermo Thermodynamics & Transport Properties Calculation » Surface Tension
Surface Tension

Surface tension is the elastic tendency of liquids which makes them acquire the least surface area possible. Surface tension is an important property that markedly influences many ecosystems. Surface tension is responsible, for example, when an object or insect (e.g. water striders) that is denser than water is able to float or run along the water surface.

At liquid-air interfaces, surface tension results from the greater attraction of liquid molecules to each other (due to cohesion) than to the molecules in the air (due to adhesion). The net effect is an inward force at its surface that causes the liquid to behave as if its surface were covered with a stretched elastic membrane. Thus, the surface becomes under tension from the imbalanced forces, which is probably where the term "surface tension" came from.[1] Because of the relatively high attraction of water molecules for each other, water has a high surface tension (72.8 millinewtons per meter at 20 °C) compared to that of most other liquids. Surface tension is an important factor in the phenomenon of capillarity.

Surface tension has the dimension of force per unit length, or of energy per unit area. The two are equivalent—but when referring to energy per unit of area, people use the term surface energy—which is a more general term in the sense that it applies also to solids and not just liquids.