Benzoic acid is an interesting substance due to its partial polarity.
In the article that follows, you’ll learn more about polarity and benzoic acid.
Is Benzoic Acid Polar or Non-Polar? (EXPLAINED)
Polarity determines how easily a substance is able to dissolve in water; the more polar a substance is, the easier it dissolves.
Since the majority of the chemical makeup of the benzoic acid molecule is nonpolar, it is mostly insoluble.
The slight solubility comes from the small part of the molecule that is polar.
This renders it a rather weak acid.
Facts About Benzoic Acid
Benzoic acid belongs to the carboxylic acid family.
It is white and crystalline, found in plant tissues and even some animals as a helper in the biosynthesis of chemical compounds that aid in metabolism.
Simply put, it helps to jump start the process of converting one substance into another in living organisms to help with metabolism.
However, since benzoic acid has come into such high demand, most of it is now synthetically made.
It is popularly used commercially in food preservatives, dyes, cosmetics, plastics, medications, and insect repellents; you might easily recognize it as the fake snow that you can buy around Christmas time. Its chemical makeup is C6H6CO2H.
There has been much debate among scientists about whether it is polar or nonpolar due to its chemical makeup, but most seem to agree that it is in the grey area of only being slightly polar.
First of all, what even is polarity?
Polarity is based on the charges of atoms and how they attract each other.
For a little refresher if it’s been a while since you last took a chemistry class, protons are positively charged and electrons are negatively charged.
Like with magnets, opposites attract, so a negatively charged atom will be attracted to a positively charged atom.
The two atoms are attracted to each other based on their electronegativity, or how strongly an atom attracts electrons from another atom towards itself.
Then, when the two atoms bond, they share electrons.
If the electrons are shared equally, then the molecule has no charge.
However, if one of the atoms is more electronegative, it’ll take more electrons from the other atom.
A more electronegative atom will end up with a surplus of negatively charged electrons, making it is a more negative atom, while the less electronegative atom now has less electrons and is, therefore, more positively charged.
This is a polar bond, since one part of it is negatively charged and the other part is positively charged.
This is important because it determines a substance’s solubility, or ability to dissolve in water.
Is Benzoic Acid Polar?
Benzoic acid has a very interesting chemical makeup that has sparked many debates over its polarity.
Benzoic acid is formed when Benzene, a hydrocarbon found in gasoline, is united with a carboxylic acid group.
Benzene is mostly nonpolar and carboxylic acid is polar, so this means that only the carboxylic acid component in benzoic acid is water soluble.
Since benzene is the main ingredient in benzoic acid, the majority of benzoic acid is nonpolar, making the acid only slightly water soluble.
However, its solubility increases as the temperature increases.
This is because molecules have more energy when its environment is hotter.
For example, when you boil water, you can see much energetic activity happening with the bubbles and the movement of the water.
Compare this to ice, which has so little activity that it forms a hard block.
Why Is Polarity Important?
Polarity is used to determine whether or not a substance is hydrophilic (water soluble) or hydrophobic (water insoluble).
Water solubility is one of the most important functions of life because water can transport nutrients to carry out metabolic functions, which is crucial to sustaining life on earth.
If a substance is water insoluble, it means that it is incapable of being broken down by water and its components are not transportable in this way.
These water insoluble compounds often contribute to pollution and toxicity.
For instance, since plastic is not water soluble, it pollutes the earth because it is unable to be broken down.
Benzoic acid is particularly hazardous to the environment because its decomposition can create toxic fumes and vapors; it can even become combustible and cause explosions under the right conditions.
However, even though it is not soluble in water, benzoic acid can be broken down by other solvents, such as alcohol.
When it is put into an ethanol solution, for instance, it can be dissolved into a benzoate ion, which is neutral.
Then, it can be decomposed in water, turning it into a non-hazardous compound.
Benzoic acid has become a very important substance used in the manufacturing of many different products.
However, it is important to understand how it works chemically so that we can ensure that we are doing our best to preserve our environment and keep people safe.
If you are ever handling benzoic acid, make sure that you are wearing gloves and are in a well-ventilated area.
Always dispose of it in the garbage instead of down the sink, since it isn’t water soluble.
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