Glossary of surface technology

Surface energy

Surface energy is the energy required to break up the molecular bonds of the surface and the liquid. If the surface energy is high, the molecules have a high tendency to attract other molecules . Liquids with a high surface energy have the tendency to contract to form a stable spherical shape (shape in which the surface molecules are at the lowest possible distance). Liquids with a low surface energy do not contract to form a stable shape and dissolve more easily. If liquids come into contact with surfaces with a high surface energy, the attraction exercised by the surface molecules on the liquid molecules is stronger than the latter’s bond to each other. This is why liquids with a low surface energy dissolve on surfaces with a high surface energy. Surfaces with dipolar properties (polar surfaces) have high surface energies because the exercise strong dipolar forces on other molecules ; therefore, liquids can wet them more easily. The unit for surface energy is energy for area unit: [mJ/m²] = [millijoule per square meter]. In case of liquids, the term surface tension is commonly used [mN/m] = [millinewton per meter]. The term has the same physical significance (1 J = 1 Nm). The surface energy of solid bodies is often expressed in the dimension [mN/m].

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