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← How polarity makes water behave strangely - Christina Kleinberg

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Showing Revision 2 created 02/21/2013 by Bedirhan Cinar.

  1. How come some insects are able to walk
  2. on the surface of a pond,
  3. but you quickly sink to the bottom
  4. when you try to walk on water?
  5. And why do lakes freeze from the top down in winter?
  6. In a word, the answer to all these questions is polarity.
  7. Water is a simple molecule
  8. made up of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms,
  9. but it is essential to life.
  10. In fact, water makes up approximately 60%
  11. of the adult human being's body weight.
  12. The polarity within those water molecules
  13. gives this common substance the properties
  14. that make it unique and life-sustaining.
  15. Polarity refers to the unequal sharing
  16. of electrons within a molecule.
  17. For water, the bonding between the oxygen atom
  18. and two hydrogen atoms within a single water molecule
  19. is like a tug-of-war between a big, strong football player
  20. and a cute little toddler.
  21. Oxygen is a larger atom,
  22. with more protons in its nucleus than hydrogen.
  23. These positive charges are like a person's physical strength.
  24. They're able to attract
  25. the negatively charged electrons in the bond,
  26. just like a strong individual is able to overpower
  27. a weaker individual in a tug of war.
  28. So, oxygen is able to attract
  29. more than its fair share of electrons.
  30. Because hydrogen is smaller and has less strength,
  31. or fewer protons,
  32. it loses the tug of war
  33. and attracts fewer than its fair share of electrons.
  34. So, the oxygen in water behaves as though it's negative,
  35. and the hydrogens behave as though they're positive.
  36. The bonds within a single water molecule
  37. are called polar covalent bonds.
  38. Covalent means that the electrons are shared.
  39. But, as we just learned,
  40. polar means that these electrons are not shared equally.
  41. In water, the oxygen acts negative
  42. and the hydrogens act positive.
  43. Since negative and positive attract,
  44. that oxygen is attracted to the hydrogen atoms
  45. in neighboring water molecules.
  46. A special type of bond forms between water molecules,
  47. known as a hydrogen bond.
  48. Hydrogen bonds don't just happen in water either.
  49. They can form between a water molecule
  50. and different substances that are polar or ionic.
  51. Water's ability to stick to itself is called cohesion,
  52. while water's ability to stick to other substances
  53. is called adhesion.
  54. Now, think back to the initial questions.
  55. First, why are some insects able to walk on water?
  56. Surface tension due to hydrogen bonding
  57. creates a thin film on the surface of water
  58. that gives enough resistance
  59. for super-light insects to walk on.
  60. You can't walk on it
  61. because the hydrogen bonds aren't strong enough
  62. to hold you up.
  63. Why does ice float on top of liquid water?
  64. For most other substances,
  65. the solid state is more dense than the liquid state,
  66. but that is not the case for water!
  67. Hydrogen bonds keep water molecules
  68. farther apart in frozen water than in liquid water.
  69. The farther apart the molecules are,
  70. the less dense that solid is.
  71. So ice is about 9% less dense than water,
  72. which means it floats on the top.
  73. That's why lakes freeze from the top down
  74. and aquatic life is able to survive
  75. through a cold winter every year.
  76. It is the polarity of the water molecule
  77. and the resulting hydrogen bonding
  78. that account for water's unique properties.
  79. So, the reason that water is so special,
  80. from inside your cells
  81. to the world's oceans,
  82. is simply because it is a polar molecule.