Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to capillarity: surface tension
capillary action,phenomenon in which the surface of a liquid is observed to be elevated or depressed where it comes into contact with a solid. For example, the surface of water in a clean drinking glass is seen to be slightly higher at the edges, where it contacts the glass, than in the middle. Capillarity can be explained by considering the effects of two opposing forces: adhesion, the attractive (or repulsive) force between the molecules of the liquid and those of the container, and cohesion, the attractive force between the molecules of the liquid (see adhesion and cohesionadhesion and cohesion,
attractive forces between material bodies. A distinction is usually made between an adhesive force, which acts to hold two separate bodies together (or to stick one body to another) and a cohesive force, which acts to hold together the like or unlike
..... Click the link for more information. ). Adhesion causes water to wet a glass container and thus causes the water's surface to rise near the container's walls. If there were no forces acting in opposition, the water would creep higher and higher on the walls and eventually overflow the container. The forces of cohesion act to minimize the surface area of the liquid (see surface tensionsurface tension,
tendency of liquids to reduce their exposed surface to the smallest possible area. A drop of water, for example, tends to assume the shape of a sphere. The phenomenon is attributed to cohesion, the attractive forces acting between the molecules of the liquid
..... Click the link for more information. ); when the cohesive force acting to reduce the surface area becomes equal to the adhesive force acting to increase it (e.g., by pulling water up the walls of a glass), equilibrium is reached and the liquid stops rising where it contacts the solid. In some liquid-solid systems, e.g., mercury and glass or water and polyethylene plastic, the liquid does not wet the solid, and its surface is depressed where it contacts the solid. Capillarity is one of the causes of the upward flow of water in the soil and in plants.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The action by which the surface of a liquid where it contacts a solid is elevated or depressed, because of the relative attraction of the molecules of the liquid for each other and for those of the solid. Also known as capillary action.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
capillary action, capillarity
1.The movement of a liquid in the interstices of soil or other porous material, as a result of surface tension.
2. The phenomenon responsible for dry soil sucking up moisture above the ground water level. Also see capillary flow.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Physics a phenomenon caused by surface tension and resulting in the distortion, elevation, or depression of the surface of a liquid in contact with a solid
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005