Negative pressures and the first water siphon taller than 10.33 meters

Francisco Vera, Rodrigo Rivera, DIEGO ALONSO ROMERO MALTRANA, Jaime Villanueva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

A siphon is a device that is used to drain a container, with water rising inside a hose in the form of an inverted U and then going down towards a discharge point placed below the initial water level. The siphon is the first of a number of inventions of the ancients documented about 2.000 years ago by Hero of Alexandria in his treatise Pneumatics, and although the explanation given by Hero was essentially correct, there is nowadays a controversy about the underlying mechanism that explains the working of this device. Discussions concerning the physics of a siphon usually refer to concepts like absolute negative pressures, the strength of liquid's cohesion and the possibility of a siphon working in vacuum or in the presence of bubbles. Torricelli understood the working principle of the barometer and the impossibility of pumping water out of wells deeper than 10.33 m. Following Torricelli's ideas it would also not be possible to build a siphon that drives pure water to ascend higher than 10.33 m. In this work, we report the first siphon that drives water (with surfactant) to ascend higher than the Torricellian limit. Motivated by the rising of sap in trees, we built a 15.4 m siphon that shows that absolute negative pressures are not prohibited, that cohesion plays an important role in transmitting forces through a fluid, and that surfactants can help to the transport of water in a metastable regime of negative pressures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0153055
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016

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