Water pours into a cup at about the same rate regardless of whether the water bottle is made of glass or plastic. But at nanometer-size scales for water and potentially other fluids, whether the container is made of glass or plastic does make a significant difference. A new study shows that in nanoscopic channels, the effective viscosity of water in channels made of glass can be twice as high as water in plastic channels. Nanoscopic glass channels can make water flow more like ketchup than ordinary H2O. The effect of container properties on the fluids they hold offers yet another example of surprising phenomena at the nanoscale. And it also provides a new factor that the designers of tiny mechanical systems must take into account.
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