The force acting per unit length on the surface of a liquid at right angle direction is called surface tension.
Consider a liquid is present in a beaker. The molecules inside the liquid are surrounded by the other molecules of the liquid. So the force of attraction on a molecule is balanced from all direction. But the force of attraction acting on the molecules of the surface from the lower layer molecules is not balanced.
The molecules lying on the surface are attracted by the molecules present below the surface Due to this downward pull the surface of the liquid behave as a membrane which tends to contract to a smaller area and causes a tension on the surface of the liquid known as surface tension.
Factors on Which Surface Tension Depends
Molecular Structure of the Liquid
If the force of attraction between the molecules is greater, the surface tension of the liquid is also greater. Those liquids in which hydrogen bond formation take place will have more surface tension.
Surface tension of a liquid is inversely proportional to the temperature.
1. Dynes / cm
2. Ergs / cm2
The fall or rise of a liquid in a capillary tube is called capillary action.
When a capillary tube is dipped in a liquid which wets the wall of the tube, the liquid will rise in the capillary tube, to decrease the surface area due to surface tension. The liquid will rise in the capillary tube until the upward force due to surface tension is just balanced by the downward gravitational pull. This is called capillary action.