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Basic Student Version

Surface Tension Lab


Key Concepts: Surface tension is a property of a liquid. It is when there is a strong attraction between the molecules that cause them to link together and remain uniform. When the molecules possess weak positive interactions, as is the case with rubbing alcohol, surface tension will be small compared to other liquids. Cohesion is the attraction of molecules among its own kind. Because of cohesion, water and other liquids form thin films and drops. Adhesion is the attraction between different substances. Adhesion powers a certain process that allows water molecules to move upward through a narrow tube. The attraction of water to the walls of a tube sucks the water up more strongly than gravity pulls it down (i.e. water moving up a plants roots).

Part I: Drops of Water on a Penny1


Materials: Pennies Water Soap Rubbing Alcohol Dropper Paper towels Pre-Lab Questions: 1. In your own words, define surface tension. 2. Predict how many drops of clean water will fit on the penny. 3. Predict how many drops of soapy water will fit on the penny. 4. Predict how many drops of rubbing alcohol will fit on the penny. Procedure: 1. Fill a dropper with water. 2. Place the penny, heads up, on top of a paper towel. 3. Using your dropper, add drops of water to the top of the penny until it overflows. 4. Record the number of drops the surface of the penny can hold in Table 1 below. 5. Repeat steps #1-4 four more times.
1

Adapted from www.middleschoolscience.com

Basic Student Version

6. Repeat steps #1-5 using soapy water, and then rubbing alcohol. Be sure to rinse and dry the penny thoroughly between experiments. Record your results in the table below and calculate the average for each liquid: Average =
Sum of Trials # of Trials

Liquid

Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Trial 4 Trial 5

Sum of Trials

Water Soapy Water Rubbing Alcohol Figure 1: Bar graph of average number of drops of liquid on a penny. Plot the average numbers on the bar graph below for each liquid.
60

50

40

30

20

10 Average # of Drops on a Penny 0

Water

Soapy Water

Rubbing Alcohol

Post-Lab Questions: 1. Which liquid do you think has the highest surface tension? Why? 2. What is the surface tension of water? What is the surface tension of rubbing alcohol? (You can find these values online or ask your teacher.) Was your prediction in Question 1 2

Basic Student Version

right or wrong? 3. Below is a cartoon depicting three water molecules. Please do the following: a. Label each atom of the molecule H or O (for hydrogen and oxygen, respectively). b. Indicate the partial charge of each atom positive (+) or negative (-). c. Draw lines to indicate how you think the molecules bond or interact with one another.

Part II: Tie Dye Milk


Materials: Milk Food coloring Toothpick Soap Bowl Procedure: 1. Fill bowl full with milk. 2. Place a few droplets of food coloring into the milk (have fun making your design!). 3. Draw a picture of the design you made below in the box labeled before under Question 1. 4. Dip one end of the toothpick into dishwashing soap. 5. Touch the soapy end of the toothpick to the milk surface. 6. Draw a picture of the design you made after you touched the surface of the milk with the 3

Basic Student Version

soapy toothpick in the box labeled after under Question 1. Post-Lab Questions: 1. Draw a before and after image of your experiment.

Before

After

2. Describe what happened when you touched the surface of the milk with the soapy end of the toothpick.

3. How would you explain your observations?

4. If you repeat the experiment do you get the same result? Why do you think this is?