Research

Lifting Liquids

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At very small scales, the interaction of solids and liquids is governed by molecular forces. Here researchers demonstrate how carbon nanowires of only a few nanometers in diameter draw liquid up in a film or bead when inserted in a pool. Capillary action is the name we give this gravity-defying force generated between the liquid and solid molecules. Although this behavior was predicted theoretically, it had not been previously observed at this scale due to the need for electron microscopy. Such microscopes require a vacuum, which boils off almost any liquid instantaneously. Researchers used a special fluid that remained in a liquid state even under near-vacuum pressures in order to make these observations. (Video credit: J. Li et al/MIT News; submitted by 20percentvitaminc)

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