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Paper Towel Science Project: Capillarity
Yikes! You’ve just spilled water all over the table! Never fear, there are paper towels nearby. As you clean up your mess you notice that water is spreading throughout the paper towel. What is going on here? The water is being absorbed, or soaked up, by the paper towel material through a process called capillary action. Capillary action, also known as capillarity, is the rising or absorption of liquids through small gaps and holes certain materials.
Paper towels are permeable and porous, meaning that they contain small spaces that both liquid and air may pass through. Liquid is able to rise through a property of water called cohesion—that is, water molecules like to stay close to one another (which also helps to explain surface tension). Water also likes to bind to certain other materials through a process called adhesion. In this paper towel science project, we will be testing which type of paper towel contains the highest rate of capillarity (or ability to absorb water into its many small spaces).
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state's handbook of Science Safety.