Phenomena

Surface Tension’s Pop

Surface tension in a liquid arises from molecular forces. Within a liquid like water, a molecule inside the fluid experiences equal tugs from similar molecules in every direction. A molecule at the surface, on the other hand, experiences the pull of similar molecules only on some sides. The net effect of this imbalance is a tensile force along the liquid surface that acts kind of like a sheet of elastic rubber – this is the effect we call surface tension. If you break the surface tension in a soap film like the one shown above, any tear will expand rapidly as the intact surface tension at the edges pulls the interior fluid away from the tear. (Image credit: C. Kalelkar and A. Sahni, source)

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