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Make matchsticks move without touching them

Suitable For

Grade 5



Time Required

 <12 Hours



What’s it about?

The surface of a liquid is held together by a strong force known as ‘surface tension’ and this same force is what causes water drops to form almost perfect spheres. Surface tension makes the surface of a liquid seems as if it has a thin, elastic skin over it. In the following experiment, let’s study how the surface tension of water can be weakened or strengthened by various substances:

Topics covered

Surface tension, Meniscus, Sphere, Cohesion

What will I need?

  • BOWL
  • SOAP

Procedure (Method)

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

How does it work?

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

‘Surface Tension’ is the tendency for the surface of a liquid to behave like a thin elastic membrane. This science experiments works because the molecules within a liquid’s interior are attracted equally in all directions, because of ‘cohesion’, the force that holds molecules together. Surface molecules only have ‘cohesive force’ from the interior and the sides of the liquid, since there is no countering pulling force from above the surface. As a result of this unequal attraction, which attempts to pull the surface inward, the entire surface acts as if it were under tension.

When the lump of sugar is placed in the centre of the bowl, it absorbs some of the water, hence a small portion of the water flows toward the sugar lump and ‘pulls’ the matchsticks on the surface towards it. On the other hand, when the soap is dipped into the centre of the bowl, the stronger surface tension around the edge of the bowl pulls the matchsticks outwards.

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