Browse Lessons
Assign Lesson

Help Teaching subscribers can assign lessons to their students to review online!

Assign Lesson to Students

Share/Like This Page

Capillary Action

Capillary Action

Euglena Without Text Labels

Introduction: With plants, like the one shown above, water is drawn up the stem by means of capillary action, and water moves through the plant using this process as well. Capillary action refers to the ability of a liquid to flow in small, tight spaces without help from gravity. In fact, capillary action often acts in the opposite direction of gravity. This has important consequences for the nutrition and survival of the plant.

Capillary action results from attractive forces between liquids and the surfaces that surround them, which are usually solids. For tubes that are small, the combination of forces between the liquid particles themselves (cohesive forces, or forces between like particles) and between the liquid particles and the surfaces (adhesive forces, or forces between unlike particles) will lead to the rise of the liquid.

Capillary action is not only important with plants, but also important in our everyday lives. Paper towels soak up water by means of capillary action. Similarly, sponges absorb water by means of capillary action through its pores. Aside from this, capillary action acts to rise a solvent (something that dissolves another substance) in paper chromatography, in which more soluble particles will be pulled further up the column by means of capillary action.

Required Video

Related Worksheets:

Additional Resources: