Liquid meniscus

Liquid meniscus

Liquid meniscus

Isaac Gendler

“Why do liquids have a bent top when put in containers?”


Have you ever placed a liquid in a container, and noticed that there was a bend in the top it’s shape? And have you ever wondered why this happens? Well, let’s use our knowledge of science to find this out. As discussed earlier, we know that liquid molecules exhibit cohesive forces towards one another and adhesive forces towards molecules of other substances, such as a solid beaker. So what if these two types of forces do not cancel one another out? This would mean that one side (the beaker or the liquid) would have a greater force than the other side, causing a pull on the liquid towards it. This in turn would cause a “bent” shape called a meniscus to form in the liquid. If the liquid exhibits a concave shape, then the adhesive forces are more powerful, and if it exhibits a convex shape, then the cohesive forces are more powerful. The net forces resulting from a meniscus will frequently result in the spectacular phenomena of capillary action.  

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