Cohesion and Adhesion: The Chemistry of Drip Diverters

There are some people in this world who like to explore beyond the basic or expected functions of any object. They want to know how and why it works as well. If you belong in that specific group of knowledge seekers, we want to talk to you about drip diverter tarps. Also known more simply as drip diverters, these are small vinyl tarps that are deployed to divert water away from sensitive areas.

We have customers who buy drip diverters to protect hay or equipment stored in a barn with a leaky roof. We have sold them to commercial property owners looking to protect sensitive equipment while maintenance crews are trying to figure out why an air-conditioning unit is leaking. We have even sold them to truck drivers dealing with leaky trailers and sleeper cabs.

In terms of the science behind what makes drip diverters effective for task, it is all about chemistry. In fact, it is all based on two properties that water possesses: cohesion and adhesion. If not for these two properties, a drip diverter tarp would be a useless piece of vinyl suspended from the ceiling.

Water Molecules and Cohesion

In chemistry, the property of cohesion is the ability of identical molecules to attract one another. One water molecule sticks to another water molecule to form a drop because of this property. Indeed, cohesion is what makes a water drop a drop.

Water’s cohesive properties are found in the way the two hydrogen atoms are aligned in relation to the single oxygen atom. Opposite charges keep the molecule together. As an added bonus, those same charges also attract other water molecules. Why does this matter when using drip diverters? Because it is cohesion, combined with gravity, that causes water to run off a drip diverter.

Gravity begins the process before cohesion takes over. It is a lot like a siphon. Once water molecules start flowing out of the drip diverter and down its tubing, each water molecule flowing in a downward motion pulls other molecules along with it. This is what prevents water from pooling inside the diverter.

Water Molecules and Adhesion

In chemistry, the property of adhesion is the ability of different molecules to attract one another. Have you ever seen a drop of water stuck to the edge of a pine needle? That happens because the surface of the water is attracted to the surface of the pine needle due to the alignment of electrical charges. That is adhesion. The two surfaces attract one another.

Adhesion plays a role in drip diverters inasmuch as water does not adhere to vinyl tarp material as well as it does to other surfaces. In fact, water tends to bead up and run off as long as there is an outlet. That’s because the cohesive bond between water molecules is stronger than the adhesive bond between water and vinyl.

This is not to say that water does not adhere to vinyl surfaces. It can and does. It’s just that it is not so easy. Compare vinyl to other fabrics – like cotton. Water will run off vinyl a lot more readily than it will cotton. In fact, the adhesion between water and cotton is such that a cotton cloth will absorb more water than it repels.

Now you know how cohesion and adhesion work together to make drip diverter tarps useful. Isn’t science fascinating? Perhaps you don’t care, and that’s okay. The most important take away here is that Mytee Products carries drip diverters. If you need to temporarily divert water away from something until permanent repairs can be affected, a drip diverter is one option.

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