# Surface Tension Force

Hi! I'm revising for my graduation exams and I unfortunately got stuck thinking about surface tension, esp about the example of a needle lying on water. When you look on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:SurftensionDiagram.gif" [Broken] drawing? Or do surface forces act (exist) only along "seperation" lines? Thanks!

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Clausius2
Gold Member
There is no NET force in those reddened points. The infinitesimal thickness of the layer water in contact with the solid is in internal equilibrium. If you slice the film on those points the net force is zero. It's pretty similar to what happens in a middle section of a loaded beam. Even though there are internal stresses the stress distribution is such that elastic equilibrium holds in each section of the beam. On those places on which there is no force exerted by the solid the internal equilibrium must hold too, and the internal surface tension force is cancelled with the hydrostatic pressure, that's why you see curvature even on zones that are not in direct contact with the solid. Imagine the layer of fluid as a belt that surrounds the needle and has some elastic (in this case surface tension) energy stored on it because of the action of the solid over it.

thanks for your reply, but unfortunately i don't really get it... could you elaborate on that a little?

Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
When you want to find the net force on a part of your system, yo do not have to worry about the various forces internal to that part. For instance, to find the tension in a length of string, you consider the string (or some part of it) as your system and look at the forces acting on its ends. That there are "similar" forces acting at every point inside this selected system is inconsequential to the determination of the net force acting on the system.

Likewise with surface tension.

Still a little bit confused. I know what you mean by the loaded timber, but what exactly attracts the molecules in the surface layer together, so they don't draw aside under the needle?

In textbooks, when illustrating the surface tension force, an example with a wire frame and a wire slider is used. But that's - in my opinion - is quite different from the example with a needle since the wire slider is on the edge of the surface, not lying ON the surface.

Clausius2