Surface tension and microgravity

Meseguer Ruiz, José and Sanz Andres, Angel Pedro and Pérez Grande, María Isabel and Pindado Carrion, Santiago and Franchini, Sebastian Nicolas and Alonso Rodrigo, Gustavo (2014). Surface tension and microgravity. "European Journal of Physics", v. 35 ; pp.. ISSN 0143-0807.


Title: Surface tension and microgravity
  • Meseguer Ruiz, José
  • Sanz Andres, Angel Pedro
  • Pérez Grande, María Isabel
  • Pindado Carrion, Santiago
  • Franchini, Sebastian Nicolas
  • Alonso Rodrigo, Gustavo
Item Type: Article
Título de Revista/Publicación: European Journal of Physics
Date: 2014
ISSN: 0143-0807
Volume: 35
Faculty: Instituto de Microgravedad Ignacio Da Riva (UPM)
Department: Vehículos Aeroespaciales [hasta 2014]
UPM's Research Group: Desarrollo y Ensayos Aeroespaciales
Creative Commons Licenses: Recognition - No derivative works - Non commercial

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The behaviour of confined liquids on board an orbiting spacecraft is mainly driven by surface tension phenomena, which cause an apparently anomalous response of the liquid when compared with the behaviour that can be observed on an Earth laboratory provided that the amount of liquid is high enough. The reason is that in an orbiting spacecraft the different inertial forces acting on the bulk of the liquid are almost zero, causing thus capillary forces to be the dominant ones. Of course, since gravity forces are proportional to the liquid volume, whereas surface tension forces are proportional to the liquid surface, there are situations on Earth where capillarity can be the dominant effect, as it happens when very small volume liquid samples are considered. However, work with small size samples may require the use of sophisticated optical devices. Leaving aside the neutral buoyancy technique, a way of handling large liquid interfaces is by using drop towers, where the sample falls subjected to the action of Earth's gravity. This approach is suitable when the characteristic time of the problem under consideration is much smaller than the drop time. In this work the transformation of an out-of-use chimney into a drop tower is presented. Because of the miniaturization, hardiness and low cost of current electronic devices, a drop tower can be used as an inexpensive tool for undergraduate students to experimentally analyse a large variety of surface tension driven phenomena.

More information

Item ID: 30958
DC Identifier:
OAI Identifier:
DOI: 10.1088/0143-0807/35/5/055010
Official URL:
Deposited by: Biblioteca ETSI Aeronauticos
Deposited on: 14 Oct 2014 11:39
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2016 12:41
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