What makes gasoline/alcohol so volatile?

  • Thread starter MrModesty
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In summary, gasoline and highly purified alcohols are effective at cleaning things due to their volatility and ability to dissolve substances. These substances, particularly alcohols, have a polar hydroxyl group that allows them to dissolve a wide range of substances. This polarity is caused by a difference in charge within the molecule and is dependent on the electronegativities of the elements and the structure of the molecule.
  • #1
MrModesty
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I have always been amazed at how well gasoline and highly purified alcohols are at cleaning things. It almost seems as if they are microscopic organisms that eat the filth away. I even remember as a kid, putting gasoline in a styrofoam cup, only to see it dissolve away. What is this mechanism?
 
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  • #2
MrModesty said:
I have always been amazed at how well gasoline and highly purified alcohols are at cleaning things. It almost seems as if they are microscopic organisms that eat the filth away. I even remember as a kid, putting gasoline in a styrofoam cup, only to see it dissolve away. What is this mechanism?
Volatility is a thing, ability to dissolve some substance is another. If you refer to the second, it's a property that all fluid chemicals have, just think about water and a very water soluble substance (there are many). Styrofoam is almost made of air, so it's for this reason it dissolves quickly; if you could make such a porous material with table salt, you would see it dissolved by water with similar speeds (and gasoline would do nothing to it).
 
  • #3
Most of these substances that have these "magical" cleaning properties, as you said, are alcohols. Alcohols by definition have a hydroxyl functional group somewhere on them. This hydroxyl group unlike the rest of the molecule is highly polar. Take for instance ethanol, it's got the polar OH on one end, but the CH3CH2 is non polar. Because it's got these both, and because similar dissolve each other, it means that alcohols can dissolve a wide range of substances.

Polarity: just a momentary difference in charge, that causes a charge imbalance within the molecule. Depends on the electronegativities of the associated elements and the structure of the molecule itself.
 

Related to What makes gasoline/alcohol so volatile?

1. What is volatility?

Volatility refers to the tendency of a substance to vaporize or evaporate at a given temperature. The higher the volatility, the easier it is for the substance to turn into a gas or vapor.

2. Why is gasoline/alcohol considered volatile?

Gasoline and alcohol are considered volatile because they have low boiling points, which means they can easily vaporize at room temperature. This is due to the chemical composition of these substances, which have a high proportion of light hydrocarbon molecules that are easily converted into gas form.

3. How is volatility measured?

Volatility is measured using a parameter called vapor pressure, which is the pressure exerted by the vapor of a substance at a given temperature. The higher the vapor pressure, the more volatile the substance is.

4. What makes some substances more volatile than others?

The volatility of a substance depends on various factors such as its molecular weight, boiling point, and intermolecular forces. Generally, substances with lower molecular weight and weaker intermolecular forces tend to be more volatile.

5. What are the potential dangers of volatile substances like gasoline/alcohol?

Volatile substances can pose significant hazards due to their flammability and potential for explosion. They can also have harmful effects on human health and the environment if not handled properly. It is important to follow safety precautions when handling and storing volatile substances.

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