Adhesion And Cohesion

There are a number of phenomena that explains various things which we observe in our everyday life. Although, we sometimes miss focussing on these little things, and these help us to keep life going on earth. Adhesion and cohesion forces are one of two phenomena. Though they sound similar, they are known to occur completely in different terms. Surface tension is one of the essential physical properties of water that describes the relationship between adhesion and cohesion.

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Definition of Adhesion and Cohesion

As for the definitions, the tendency of two or more different molecules to bond with each other is known as adhesion, whereas the force of attraction between the same molecules is known as cohesion.

The adhesion forces can be one of the results of electrostatic forces which are exerted on different substances. The cohesive forces are associated with Van der Waals forces and hydrogen bonding that cause liquids such as water to withstand the separation. When a glass surface is poured with water, both adhesive and cohesive forces act on the surface of the water. A strong adhesive force tends the liquid to spread over the surface whereas a strong cohesive force is responsible for the formation of water droplets on the water surface.

The adhesion and cohesion forces, both vary in their strengths. For example, if cohesion forces between the water molecules are stronger than that of the adhesion forces between them, then the individual molecules will attract each other thus resulting in settling. In case, the adhesion forces of the water surfaces are stronger than that of the cohesion forces of the water molecules, then the water tends to disperse.

Differences Between Adhesion and Cohesion Adhesion Cohesion
1. Adhesion happens between two dissimilar molecules or substances. When two similar substances or molecules face the force of attraction, this force is known as the cohesion force.
2. Adhesion is generally the force of attraction present between the water molecules and the walls of xylem vessels. Cohesion force is unrestrained among water molecules.
3. Capillary action and meniscus (the curved surface which is formed by any liquid in a cylinder) are the effects of adhesion. Surface tension, meniscus and capillary action are the effects of cohesion.
4. Adhesion is caused by electrostatic or mechanical forces that exist among two kinds of different substances. Cohesion is caused by hydrogen bonding and Van der Waals forces.
5. A strong adhesion force causes the liquid to spread all over the surface. A strong force of cohesion forms water droplets on any surface.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


What is cohesion and its example?

When two similar substances or molecules face the force of attraction this force is known as cohesion force. Water is an example of cohesion. Each water molecule forms hydrogen bonds with neighbouring molecules.


What is adhesion and its example?

When two dissimilar substances or molecules face the force of attraction this force is known as adhesion force. Water drops on the surface of leaves and flowers.


How do you distinguish between cohesion and adhesion?

The difference between adhesion and cohesion is the attraction between same molecules called cohesion and the attraction between different molecules called adhesion.


Why is cohesion important?

Cohesion allows for the development of surface tension which causes the surface of liquid to contract to the smallest possible surface area. It helps plants to take up water at their root.

Test your knowledge on adhesion and cohesion difference!


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