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Solutions and Molecules

A solvent is a substance that is capable of dissolving another substance (called a solute) into a uniform mixture known as a solution.  In order for a solvent to be able to accomplish this task it must overcome the forces that bind the solute (the substance being dissolved) together.

Have you ever made bouillon soup?  When you make bouillon soup you are dissolving  a solute (the bouillon cube) with a solvent (water) to make a solution (bouillon soup).

Molecular Forces

Molecules are held together by electrostatic attractions called van der Waals forces.  However the forces causing molecules to stick together are much weaker than chemical bonds.  Chemical bonds are the forces that bind the atoms of a molecule together.  Although van der Waals forces are weak they affect the properties of solvents.  As you will discover in this lesson, only solvents with van der Waals forces similar to those of the solute will be able to pull the molecules of the solute apart so that it will dissolve.

Understanding Solvents Affects Human Health

Understanding the properties of solvents is important.  Some organic solvents are highly toxic and harmful to human health.  In this lesson we will learn how to make decisions about these solvents to help protect human health.

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