Science in a Second: Energy and Change

Conceptual Strand Energy and change Activity Title Surface tension- drops on a coin Objectives • To investigate surface tension.

Grade 6 and 7

Introduction You might have heard water called H2O. This is the chemical formula for water. A water molecule is made up of two hydrogen particles (or atoms) and one oxygen particle (atom). The hydrogen atoms have a positive charge and the oxygen atom has a negative charge. This means that the atoms in the water molecules attract each other (positive and negatives attract each other much the same as the north and south poles of a magnet). The forces between the atoms are called cohesive forces. Figure 1 shows the direction of the forces between the water molecules. The cohesive forces between the water molecules below the surface are shared with all the atoms of neighbouring molecules. This means the forces are spread evenly all around. Those on the surface have no water molecules above them. As a result, they cohere more strongly to those directly associated with them on the surface. The uneven spread of these cohesive forces at the water surface is responsible for the “skin’ that forms. This distribution of the intermolecular attractive forces at the surface is called surface tension. Surface tension enables water droplets to form and allows water striders to run across ponds. This investigation explores the strength of surface tension. Definitions Surface tension Aim To test the strength of the surface tension of water by finding how many drops of water can fit on a 5 cent piece.
This material may be freely copied or adapted without the author’s consent. However, appropriate acknowledgement should be made to the author.



Figure 1: The direction of cohesive forces between water molecules (black circles) below the surface (A) and at the surface (B). The distribution of forces at the surface creates to the phenomenon known as surface tension. Modified from Hyperphysics 2009.

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Test your prediction by dropping one drop of water at a time onto your coin until it spills over the edges. Test it again until you have tested it three times. Count how many drops it takes. However. Observations The drops pile up on the coin in a dome shape. However. before the dome bursts and flows off the coin. the molecules at the surface stick only to the molecules below and next to them. Average your results by adding them up and dividing by three. the force of gravity becomes stronger than the forces of attraction among the water molecules at the surface. appropriate acknowledgement should be made to the author. (Did you get the same number each time)? 5. Investigate the surface tension of other liquids (eg oil.Science in a Second: Energy and Change Materials Laboratory Equipment • Pipette or dropper • Coin or metal disc • Beaker • Newspaper • Water Safety There are no safety concerns if instructions are followed. Results Liquid used Water Prediction for number of drops that will be held Actual number of drops Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Average number of drops Classroom alternative • Pipette or straw • 5 cent piece • Plastic cup • Newspaper • Water Explanation When you place water drops on a 5 cent piece. Predict how many drops of water your coin will hold before the water spills off the coin. This is because water molecules are attracted to each other in all directions. mixtures of these and water). Procedure 1. This makes the surface of the water behave like it has a skin. 2. the drops pile up into a dome shape. detergent. As more drops are added. making them “stick” together. This causes the water to spill over the edge of the coin. Other types This material may be freely copied or adapted without the author’s consent. Page 2 of 3 . 3. breaking the surface tension. This is known as surface tension. Record your data in the table. 4. There are no molecules above them. glycerine. Place a piece of newspaper on your work surface. Introductory magnets This material may be freely copied or adapted without the author’s consent.Science in a Second: Energy and Change of liquids have different surface tensions to milk. appropriate acknowledgement should be made to the author. Downloaded 4/08/2009.phy-astr. Surface Tension. Extension • Use the same procedure to test the surface tension of different liquids. glycerine.html. How does the surface tension of different liquids vary? How do these liquids affect the surface tension of water? Links Surface tension boat References Hyperphysics (2009). detergent. Page 3 of 3 . Questions What is surface tension? Answers to questions See introduction. vegetable oil. http://hyperphysics. This is due to the different types of atoms (chemical composition) and the strength of the intermolecular forces between the atoms.

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