Letter | Published:

Estimation of Surface Energies from Contact Angles

Naturevolume 212pages276277 (1966) | Download Citation



A RECENT communication by Gray1 illustrates a possible pitfall in the use of the theories of Fowkes2–5 and Good and Girifalco6,7 to estimate surface energies, and the various components of surface energy, from contact angles. This source of error is the incorrect identification of the surface tension terms, and the equating of the contact angle in a contaminated, experimental system to that in a system composed of properly pure components. Thus, Gray wrote Fowkes's equation in the form and used his observed contact angle data for mercury on polyethylene, paraffin wax and polytetrafluoroothylene, together with Fowkes's estimates of γds for the solids and of γdL for mercury, to calculate values for γL for mercury. The fact that the values of γL turned out to be very much larger than 485 dynes/cm was then taken to be an unexplained discrepancy in the theory. In his discussion, Gray apparently also misinterpreted a remark of Fowkes5 about the effect of a contaminant in the mercury on the observed contact angle.

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  1. 1

    Gray, V. R., Nature, 209, 608 (1966).

  2. 2

    Fowkes, F. M., J. Phys. Chem., 66, 382 (1962).

  3. 3

    Fowkes, F. M., J. Phys. Chem., 67, 2538 (1963).

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    Fowkes, F. M., Adv. Chem., 43, 99 (Amer. Chem. Soc., Washington, D.C., 1964).

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    Fowkes, F. M., Ind. Eng. Chem., 56, 40 (1964).

  6. 6

    Good, R. J., and Girifalco, L. A., J. Phys. Chem., 64, 561 (1960).

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    Good, R. J., and Girifalco, L. A., Adv. Chem., 43, 74 (Amer. Chem. Soc., Washington, D.C., 1964).

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    Fox, H. W., and Zisman, W. A., J. Coll. Sci., 5, 415 (1950).

  9. 9

    Johnson, R. E., and Dette, R. L., J. Coll. Sci. (in the press).

  10. 10

    Girifalco, L. A., and Good, R. J., J. Phys. Chem., 61, 904 (1957).

  11. 11

    Berthelot, D., C. R., 126, 1703, 1857 (1898).

  12. 12

    Burdon, R. S., Surface Tension and the Spreading of Liquids, second ed., 24 (Cambridge University Press, 1949).

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  1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University of New York, Buffalo

    • R. J. GOOD


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