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Is Water a Universal Solvent?

In this is water a universal solvent? post we have briefly explained about water as a universal solvent and why is water important to life. Read on to learn more about why water as a universal solvent!!

Is Water a Universal Solvent?

Water constitutes about 70 to 80 percent of the weight of most cells. The hydrogen atom in one water molecule is attracted to a pair of electrons in the outer shell of an oxygen atom in an adjacent molecule. The structure of liquid water contains hydrogen-bonded networks.

Water as Universal Solvent

Is Water a Universal Solvent?: Water molecules hydrogen bonded

Water constitutes about 70 to 80 percent of the weight of most cells. The hydrogen atom in one water molecule is attracted to a pair of electrons in the outer shell of an oxygen atom in an adjacent molecule. The structure of liquid water contains hydrogen-bonded networks.

The crystal structure of ice depicts a tetrahedral arrangement of water molecules. Four others bound by hydrogen bonds surround each oxygen atom. On melting, the molecules get much closer and this results in the increase in density of water. Hence, liquid water is denser than solid ice. This also explains why ice floats on water.

Water molecules are in rapid motion, constantly making and breaking hydrogen bonds with adjacent molecules. As the temperature of water increases toward 100°C, the kinetic energy of its molecules becomes greater than the energy of the hydrogen bonds connecting them, and the gaseous form of water appears. A few gifted properties of water make it the most preferred medium for all cellular reactions and interactions.

Water as a Universal Solvent

Water is a polar molecule. Molecules with polar bonds that can easily form hydrogen bonds with water can dissolve (solvent) in water and are termed “hydrophilic”.

It has immense hydrogen bonding capacity both with other molecules and also the adjacent water molecules. This contributes to cohesiveness of water.

Water favours hydrophobic interactions and provides a basis for metabolism of insoluble substances.

Water as a Universal Solvent

Water expands when it is cooled from 4oC to 0oC, while normally liquids are expected to contract due to cooling. As water is heated from 0oC to 4oC, the hydrogen bonds begin to break. This results in a decrease in volume or in other words, increases in density. Hence, water attains high density at 4oC. However, above 4oC the effect of temperature predominates.

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