Surface energy

From Academic Kids

Surface energy quantifies the disruption of chemical bonds that occurs when a surface is created. In the physics of solids, surfaces must be intrinsically less energetically favourable than the bulk of a material; otherwise there would be a driving force for surfaces to be created, and surface is all there would be (see sublimation (physics)). Cutting a solid body into pieces disrupts its bonds, and therefore consumes energy.

If the cutting is done reversibly (see reversible), then conservation of energy means that the energy consumed by the cutting process will be equal to the energy inherent in the two new surfaces created. The unit surface energy of a material would therefore be half of its energy of cohesion, all other things being equal; in practice, this is true only for a surface freshly prepared in vacuum. Surfaces often change their form away from the simple "cleaved bond" model just implied above. They are found to be highly dynamic regions, which readily rearrange or react, so that energy is often reduced by such processes as passivation or adsorption.

As first described by Thomas Young in 1805 in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, it is the interaction between the forces of cohesion and the forces of adhesion which determines whether or not wetting, the spreading of a liquid over a surface, occurs. If wetting does not occur, then a bead of liquid will form, with a contact angle which is a function of the surface energies of the system.

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