Due to the property of surface tension, the free surface of a liquid is always under tension and tends to have minimum surface area. If the area of the liquid surface is increased, work will be done very much similar to that done in stretching a rubber sheet. This work is stored as potential energy in the surface and the amount of this energy per unit area of the surface under isothermal condition is called ‘intrinsic surface energy’ or ‘free surface energy density’.
To derive an expression for the surface energy consider a wire frame equipped with a sliding wire AB as shown in figure. If a film of liquid is formed it will pull the wire due to surface tension. However, as the film of liquid is formed it will pull the wire due to surface tension. However, as the film has two surfaces (upper and lower), each surface will pull the wire parallel to itself with a force TL (as ST = force/length).
The tendency of free surface, due to surface tension, to acquired minimum surface area makes it curved. But this is sustained due to excess of pressure developed in the concave side of the surface compared to convex side. This excess of pressure depends on the coefficient of surface tension, S, and the radius of curvature of surface r.
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