Elasticity and Surface Tension - The world around us is full of fascinating phenomena governed by the properties of materials. Two such properties, elasticity and surface tension, play a crucial role in shaping the behavior of substances, from the bounce of a rubber ball to the formation of water droplets. Understanding these properties allows us to appreciate the intricate workings of everyday objects and design new technologies.


Elasticity refers to the ability of a material to deform under stress (applied force) and return to its original shape when the stress is removed. Imagine stretching a rubber band; it elongates under your pull, but snaps back to its original size once you let go. This ability to reversibly deform is a hallmark of elastic materials.

Types of Elasticity:

⦿ Stress-strain relationship: This describes the proportional relationship between applied stress and resulting strain (deformation) for a material within its elastic limit.

⦿ Young's modulus: This quantity measures the stiffness of a material, indicating the amount of stress required to produce a specific strain.

⦿ Elastic limit: Beyond this point, deformation becomes permanent, and the material no longer returns to its original shape.

Surface Tension

Surface tension is a property of liquids that arises from the cohesive forces between their molecules. At the surface, unlike molecules surrounded by others in all directions, those on the surface experience an unbalanced inward pull. This results in a tendency for the liquid to minimize its surface area.

Elasticity and Surface Tension - Physics Short Notes 📚

Factors Affecting Surface Tension:

Intermolecular forces: Stronger forces between molecules lead to higher surface tension.

⦿ Temperature: As temperature increases, the intermolecular forces weaken, causing surface tension to decrease.

⦿ Surrounding medium: Surface tension can change depending on the interaction between the liquid and the gas or solid it's in contact with.

Elasticity and Surface Tension - Examples

⦿ Elasticity: The trampoline stretches under our weight but bounces back due to its elasticity. Similarly, car tires deform under pressure but maintain their shape for driving.

⦿ Surface Tension: Water droplets form a spherical shape due to surface tension minimizing the surface area. Insects like water striders can walk on water because their legs don't break the surface tension.

Elasticity and Surface Tension - Applications

⦿ Elasticity: Elastic materials have numerous applications, from springs in machinery to shock absorbers in vehicles. They are also used in medical implants and sports equipment due to their ability to absorb impact.

⦿ Surface Tension: Surface tension is utilized in various processes, like ink printing where it allows for controlled spreading of ink on paper. It also plays a role in capillary action, where liquids rise in narrow tubes due to surface tension.

Elasticity and Surface Tension - Formula Table

⦿ Stress (σ): σ = F/A (Force (F) divided by Area (A))

⦿ Strain (ε): ε = ΔL/L₀ (Change in Length (ΔL) divided by Original Length (L₀))

⦿ Young's Modulus (Y): Y = σ/ε

Elasticity and Surface Tension - Physics Short Notes 📚

By understanding elasticity and surface tension, we gain a deeper appreciation for the behavior of materials and their potential applications. From the engineering of new materials to explaining everyday phenomena, these properties are fundamental building blocks of our physical world.

Elasticity FAQs

What happens to a material beyond its elastic limit?

When a material is stretched or compressed beyond its elastic limit, it undergoes plastic deformation. This means the deformation becomes permanent, and the material won't return to its original shape. In extreme cases, the material may even break.

Are all materials elastic?

No, not all materials are elastic. Some materials, like brittle solids (glass) or fluids, will deform permanently under stress and won't return to their original shape.

What materials have high elasticity?

Materials with strong intermolecular forces and well-organized structures tend to have high elasticity. Examples include rubber, metals (within their elastic limit), and some polymers.

Surface Tension FAQs

Why are water droplets round?

Surface tension minimizes the surface area of a liquid. A sphere has the smallest surface area for a given volume, hence why water droplets are round.

What breaks surface tension?

Adding surfactants (soaps or detergents) to water disrupts the surface tension. The surfactant molecules disrupt the cohesive forces between water molecules, allowing the water to spread out more easily.

Can surface tension make objects float?

Yes! Surface tension can allow objects denser than the liquid to float on its surface. For example, small insects like water striders can distribute their weight across a large enough area to avoid breaking the surface tension and stay afloat.