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Excess Pressure Inside Liquid Drop: Derivation of Expression

by Cameron James Connor

Excess Pressure Inside Liquid Drops: Derivation of Expression

When considering liquid drops, it is important to understand the concept of excess pressure that exists within them. This excess pressure arises due to the curvature of the liquid-air interface at the surface of the drop. In this article, we will delve into the derivation of the expression for the excess pressure inside a liquid drop, exploring the fundamental principles that govern this phenomenon.

Understanding Surface Tension

Before we delve into the derivation of excess pressure inside a liquid drop, it is essential to grasp the concept of surface tension. Surface tension is the property of a liquid that allows it to resist an external force, minimizing the surface area to the smallest possible size. This results in the formation of spherical liquid drops, as this shape minimizes the surface area for a given volume of liquid.

Excess Pressure Inside a Liquid Drop

Consider a liquid drop of radius r suspended in air. At any point on the curved surface of the drop, there exists a pressure P acting perpendicular to the surface. This pressure is composed of two components:

  1. The internal pressure of the liquid, denoted as P₀.
  2. The excess pressure due to the curvature of the surface, denoted as ΔP.

The excess pressure, ΔP, is the difference between the pressure inside the drop and the pressure outside (atmospheric pressure):

ΔP = P – P₀

Derivation of Excess Pressure

To derive an expression for the excess pressure inside a liquid drop, we can consider the equilibrium of forces acting on a small element of the drop’s surface.

Let ds be a small element of the surface of the drop with radius of curvature R. The forces acting on this element are:

  1. The force due to excess pressure acting inward, given by (P – P₀)ds.
  2. The force due to surface tension acting tangentially along the surface, given by σdθ, where σ is the surface tension and is the angle subtended by the element ds at the center of the drop.

In the radial direction, the excess pressure force is balanced by the component of surface tension along the radial direction:

(P – P₀)ds = σcos(dθ)

Since is small, we can approximate cos(dθ) as 1. Thus, the equation simplifies to:

(P – P₀)ds = σ

Excess Pressure Expression

Now, we can express the excess pressure, ΔP, in terms of the surface tension, σ, and the radius of curvature, R, of the drop’s surface.

For a spherical surface, the radius of curvature is equal to the radius of the drop, i.e., R = r. Therefore, we can rewrite the equation in terms of the drop’s radius:

ΔP = 2σ/r

This expression signifies that the excess pressure inside a liquid drop is inversely proportional to its radius. Smaller drops exhibit higher excess pressures due to their higher curvature.

Significance of Excess Pressure

The concept of excess pressure inside liquid drops is crucial in various phenomena, such as the stability of liquid drops, the coalescence of droplets, and the behavior of liquids in microfluidic devices. Understanding this excess pressure helps in predicting and controlling the behavior of liquid drops in different environments.


The knowledge of excess pressure inside liquid drops finds applications in diverse fields, including:

  1. Microfluidics: In microfluidic devices, controlling the excess pressure is essential for precise manipulation of small liquid volumes.

  2. Pharmaceuticals: Understanding excess pressure helps in designing drug delivery systems based on liquid droplets.

  3. Materials Science: The behavior of liquid drops on surfaces is influenced by excess pressure, impacting surface interactions and wetting properties.


In conclusion, the derivation of the expression for excess pressure inside liquid drops provides valuable insight into the fundamental principles governing the behavior of liquid interfaces. The relationship between excess pressure, surface tension, and drop radius is crucial in understanding various natural phenomena and engineering applications. By comprehending the intricacies of excess pressure, researchers and engineers can develop innovative solutions in fields ranging from biomedical engineering to advanced materials science.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is excess pressure inside a liquid drop?
A1: Excess pressure inside a liquid drop is the additional pressure that exists inside the drop due to the curvature of its surface.

Q2: How is excess pressure related to surface tension?
A2: Excess pressure is inversely proportional to surface tension, as higher surface tension leads to lower excess pressure.

Q3: Why do smaller liquid drops exhibit higher excess pressures?
A3: Smaller drops have higher curvature, resulting in higher excess pressures according to the expression ΔP = 2σ/r.

Q4: What are the applications of understanding excess pressure in liquid drops?
A4: Applications include microfluidics, drug delivery systems, and surface interactions in materials science.

Q5: How does excess pressure impact the stability of liquid drops?
A5: Excess pressure influences the stability of liquid drops, affecting their shape, coalescence, and behavior on surfaces.

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