Post by Thomas Womack
The surface tension of liquid gallium is absolutely enormous;
V Kolevzon, G Gerbeth - Journal of Physics D, Applied Physics, 1996
and the CRC handbook suggest that it's something on the order of 700
dyn/cm, even more than mercury.
By that argument the liquid gallium should be sitting in a lovely
shiny sphere, scarcely touching the underlying material and definitely
not sticking to it, almost regardless of the material.
The laws of physics should still hold here - pure mercury acts
appropriately for its surface tension. Virtually the only thing that
keeps it from having a 180 degree angle with a surface is its huge
density, so you have the classic balance between between surface
tension force and gravitational force. My first thought is that there
is some kind of surface contamination going on. In the paper you
cited, even this careful study came up with an "anomalously" low
surface tension for gallium, in the range of 700 instead of 900 dyn/cm,
which they attributed to a surface metal oxide or organic film.
Surface tension is an incredibly local event and can be completely
altered by the presence of a monolayer of a different material.
This website actually talks about the difficulty of getting _pure_
gallium to WET a surface! They have to go so far as to glow discharge
a molybdenum (high energy) surface just to get pure gallium to wet it.
So I think I've convinced myself anyway that it's surface contamination
that causes the anomalous wetting. Gallium is so high energy that it
collects everything around it and forms a film on its surface that
causes it to wet. So again, going to an oriented -CH3 terminated film
or -(CF2)nCF3 film should work! (lower surface tension than the
probable organic contaminants)