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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Partial Equilibrium Theory for Drops and Capillary Liquids

  • Author(s): Searcy, Alan W.;
  • Beruto, Dario T.;
  • Barberis, Fabrizio
  • et al.

The two-century old theory of Young and Laplace retains a powerful influence on surface and interface studies because it quantitatively predicts the height of rise of capillary liquids from the contact angles of drops. But the classical theory does not acknowledge that equilibrium requires separate minimization of partial free energies of one-component liquids bonded to immiscible solids. We generalize a theorem of Gibbs and Curie to obtain a partial equilibrium (PE) theory that does so and that also predicts the height of capillary rise from contact angles of drops. Published observations and our own measurements of contact angles of water bonded to glass and Teflon surfaces support the conclusion of PE theory that contact angles of meniscuses and of drops are different dependent variables. PE theory provides thermodynamic and kinetic guidance to nanoscale processes that the classical theory obscures, as illustrated by examples in our concluding section.

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