Demonstrating the Effect of Surfactant on Water Retention of Waxy Leaf Surfaces

Yu Chun Chiu, Matthew A. Jenks, Michelle Richards-Babb, Betsy B. Ratcliff, John A. Juvik, Kang Mo Ku

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We report here the development of an inexpensive and engaging laboratory-based activity that can help students learn about the scientific method and the role of plant epicuticular waxes and surfactant function on waxy plant leaves as real life example in the agricultural industry. Three each of nontreated collard leaves (Brassica oleraceae L. Acephala group) and brushed-leaves were sprayed with water to demonstrate hydrophobicity of epicuticular waxes. Another set of three nontreated collard leaves was sprayed with Tween 20 containing water to demonstrate function of surfactant. Then, water retention rate was calculated by subtracting between before and after spray treatments. Water contact angles were measured by ImageJ software from nontreated and brushed-leaves from pictures taken by students’ smartphone. This lab activity provides a foundation for instruction on the importance of the plant epicuticular waxes that is the outermost hydrophobic barrier in agrochemical applications and the function of surfactant on waxy leaf surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-234
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 14 2017


  • Agricultural Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Plant Chemistry
  • Surface Science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Education


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