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Electro-capillarity

The relations between surface tension, the potential difference and the electrostatic capacity of fluids in contact. Although nominally in contact such surfaces are separated by about one-twenty-millionth of a centimeter (1/50000000 inch) ; thus a globule of mercury and water in which it is immersed constitute an electrostatic accumulator of definite electrostatic capacity. Again the mercury and water being in electric connection differ in potential by contact (see Contact Theory). A definite surface tension is also established. Any change in one of these factors changes the other also. A current passed through the contact surfaces will change the surface tension and hence the shape of the mercury globule. Shaking the globule will change its shape and capacity and produce a current. Heating will do the same. (See Capillary Electrometer; Capillary) Mercury and water are named as liquids in which the phenomena are most conveniently observed. They are observable in other parallel cases.