Molten Wax in Water Shape
Date: Winter 2013-14
When molten wax is submerged in water at a constant speed, it rises up and forms a conical structure. Why does the wax solidify to form a peak? What are the forces acting on the wax other than buoyancy and friction?
I think you have answered your own question! The two main forces are
(as you noted) buoyancy and friction. As the wax rises, the two forces
work together to cause it to form into a shape that results in the least
Thanks for the question. The situation you describe also occurs with molten sulfur, but that process is a bit stinkier. Remember that as the wax cools, it increases its viscosity and hardens. This hardening gives stiffness to the wax and allows it to support a load, which is the wax that sits higher up in the pile. Additionally, the wax cools on the time scale that it takes for the liquid wax spread out.
I hope this helps.
Click here to return to the Material Science Archives
Update: November 2011