High School

Adhesion, cohesion, surface tension

Explore cohesion, adhesion, and surface tension of water!  Investigate how these properties are different for different substances and infer the intermolecular forces at play!


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Learning Objectives

Students will know

  • Adhesion
  • Cohesion
  • Surface tension
  • Intermolecular forces

Students will understand

  • Many of the properties of water (adhesion, surface tension, etc.) are due to strong intermolecular forces.
  • Not all substances have the same intermolecular forces.

Students will be able to

  • Perform a “Walking Water” experiment to see how water molecules have stronger adhesion forces to paper than it’s own cohesive force.
  • Investigate intermolecular strength and surface tension by conducting “Drops on a Penny” with water and alcohol.
Standards Alignment + Connections

Next Generation Science Standards Connections

HS-PS1-3: Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical forces between particles.

How to Run the Experiment

Materials You Will Need

Walking Liquids

  • Food coloring (red, yellow, blue)
  • 5 clear cups
  • 3 cups of water
  • 4 paper towels
  • Ruler

Drops on a Penny

  • Penny
  • Water
  • Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • Transfer pipette or eye dropper

Additional Resources


Properties of Water by Glencoe (requires Adobe Flash)