Common examples of solvents include water, ethanol, methanol and acetone. The term ‘solvent’ can be defined as a substance that has the ability to dissolve a given solute to form a solution with it. Although solvents are mostly used in the liquid state, it is possible for solvents to exist in the solid and gaseous phase as well. Some common examples of solvents are listed below.
- Methyl acetate
- Ethyl acetate
The properties of some of these solvents are detailed in the following subsections.
Water is a polar, protic solvent with the chemical formula H2O. Water has the ability to dissolve a large variety of substances. This is the reason why it is regarded as a good solvent. Furthermore, water is often referred to as the “universal solvent” because it is known to dissolve more substances than all other liquid solvents. Water is crucial to every living organism on the planet Earth. As water travels across the water cycle, through the ground and through the bodies of living organisms, it transports several valuable minerals and nutrients with it.
Ethanol is considered by many to be a very versatile solvent. This organic compound forms miscible mixtures with water and several other organic solvents such as benzene, acetone, ethylene glycol, chloroform, toluene, glycerol, nitromethane, carbon tetrachloride, pyridine and diethyl ether. This compound is also miscible with many light aliphatic hydrocarbons. Some examples include pentane and hexane. Aliphatic chlorides such as tetrachloroethylene are also miscible with ethanol.
Methanol is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3-OH. This compound is also referred to as methyl alcohol. Methanol is mainly used as an industrial solvent to help in the manufacture of resins, inks, colours and adhesives. This compound is also used in the processing of essential pharmaceutical ingredients and products such as cholesterol, vitamins, streptomycin and hormones as a solvent.
Due to its ability to dissolve both polar and nonpolar compounds, acetone is considered by many to be a very good solvent (most other solvents can only dissolve either polar or non-polar compounds). Furthermore, acetone is a strong solvent because it is a miscible material. This means that it has the potential to mix in certain amounts with water. Acetone is used in a number of important organic reactions (such as nucleophilic substitution reactions) as a polar, aprotic solvent. The use of acetone solvent is also vital in the Jones oxidation reaction (an important named reaction for the conversion of secondary alcohols into ketones). It is important to note that this compound does not form an azeotrope with water
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