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Property of a liquid surface that causes it to act like a stretched elastic membrane (seeelasticity). Its strength depends on the forces of attraction among the particles of the liquid itself and with the particles of the gas, solid, or liquid with which it comes in contact. Surface tension allows certain insects to stand on the surface of water and can support a razor blade placed horizontally on the liquid's surface, even though the blade may be denser than the liquid and unable to float. Surface tension results in spherical drops of liquid, as the liquid tends to minimize its surface area.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on surface tension, visit Britannica.com.