You are watching: Why (if you are careful) are you able to float a needle on the surface of water?

Chemisattempt 9-12: Chemical bonding

2h. * Students know exactly how to recognize solids and liquids organized together by van der Waals pressures or hydrogen bonding and relate these pressures to volatility and also boiling/ melting suggest temperatures.

A steel needle or paper clip has higher density that that of water. So when it is dropped into water, it drops dvery own into the bottom of water. However, if we put it horizontally on the water via most caution, it deserve to float almost forever before as a result of the surface tension of water.

Surfaces, or more mostly interdeals with, display some physical properties which are not discovered in the mass of the exact same material. The ideal recognized example of such home is surface stress and anxiety. Intermolecular pressures create the surconfront tension. The water molecules at the surconfront are pulled in by the cohesive force in between themselves and also molecules inside the mass and also therefore have actually higher potential power than those inside. The water keeps its round surchallenge shape because tbelow are no water molecules exterior the surface to balance this inward pull. This cohesive pressure acts choose a elastic membrane which resists being torn.


The photos above display the framework of water molecules. Between water molecules tbelow are hygrogen bonding, which are attractive forces. The yellow lines reexisting hydrogen bonding. Inside molecules have actually attractive forces in all direction, so these pressures are canceled out. Because of this, they don"t feel any net pressure, so they do not have actually any potential power. In contrast, the surface molecules have only side and downward attration pressures. So horizontally they tempt each other and also act choose a membrane. In a vertical direction to the center, they have potential power. To minimize this power, they try to make their surchallenge area as samll as possible.

The magnitude of push exerted by an object depends on its weight and also contact area. When we drop a needle vertically, also though it has the same weight, it has little call location, which leads to huge pressure on the surconfront of water causing tearing the surface and also falling dvery own. In truth, that"s why needles have actually such sharp tips. In contrast, if is put horizontally to the surchallenge of water, it has actually bigger contact area and also less pressure exerting on the water surface.

When soap is included to the water, the needle will certainly be propelled to sink by the disruption of the water"s surchallenge stress and anxiety. Make certain students observe what happens to the needle. The term surfactant is a blfinish of "surface acting agent". Surfactants are normally organic compounds that are amphipathic, interpretation they contain both hydrophobic groups (their "tails") and also hydrophilic teams (their "heads"). As such, they are soluble in both organic solvents and also water. Surfactants minimize the surface anxiety of water by adsorbing at the liquid-gas interchallenge. They also alleviate the interfacial stress in between oil and also water by adsorbing at the liquid-liquid interchallenge.


Questioning Script

Prior understanding & experience: Metal iron has better density than that of water, so an object made of iron sinks into the water.

Root question: What makes the metal needle float on water?

Tarobtain response: Students understand the impact of surconfront tension and fudamentally the strength of intermolecular bonding.

Usual Misconceptions:

Students commonly think heavy steel always sink right into water without considering the impact of form even though the shape of an item determines the buoyance and also exerting pressure onto water. Young students do not think that tright here are intermolecular pressures within a liquid. Students think that only the weight of a things affects the pressure exerted by the object.

Inquiry for students

Why carry out we should put the needle onto the item of paper to make it float? Why perform we should dry the needle up prior to we use it? What makes the needle float? How the detergent renders the floating needle sink? Do you think the needle have the right to float on the oil with the very same method?


Fill a beaker or glass tumbler fifty percent via water. Drop a metal needle or paper clip right into water in order to show the truth that the steel has actually greater density than that of water. Get the needle out of water and dry the needle out to reuse it. Cut paper towel to obtain a item of paper. Placed the needle onto the piece of paper. Get a glass of water. Then put the item of paper via the needle onto the water. When the paper is soaked, push the paper right into the water to remove it. Stir the water very closely to show the needle is floating. Prepare a small amount soap water via kitchen soap. Add a drop of soap water into the glass, then watch the needle sinking. For the comparikid of surface stress of assorted liquids, use ethanol or vegetable oil.

Surchallenge stress and anxiety is crucial for the transfer of power from wind to water to develop waves. Waves are crucial for rapid oxygen diffusion in lakes and also seas.
Because of the high surconfront anxiety in between water and also air, water striders are able to literally walk on water.

Surconfront tension reasons these water droplets on leaves to bead up creating the smallest surchallenge feasible.

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The water molecules at the surconfront are pulled in by the cohesive force in between themselves and also molecules inside the droplet. The water keeps its droplet form because tbelow are no water molecules external the surconfront to balance this inward pull.