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Examples of Solvents | List and Types with Uses

A solvent is a liquid substance that lets other materials get dissolved in it.

They find many applications in the formulation of food, drugs, cosmetics (lipsticks) and also in research.

Common Examples of Solvents include

  1. Water
  2. Ethanol
  3. Methanol
  4. N-propanal
  5. Butanol
  6. Ether
  7. Dichloromethane
  8. Carbon disulfide
  9. glycerol
  10. Acetone
  11. Carbon tetrachloride
  12. Cyclohexane
  13. Formic acid
  14. Toluene
  15. Anisole
  16. Pyridine
  17. Acetic Acid
  18. Hexane
  19. Xylene
  20. Trifluoroacetic acid
  21. Dimethyl sulfoxide
  22. benzene
  23. Nitrobenzene
  24. Quinoline
  25. Dibutyl phthalate
  26. Dimethylformamide
  27. Cyclohexane
  28. Anisole
  29. Tetrahydrofuran
  30. Petroleum ether

Solvents are chemical compounds which are physically liquids at room temperature. But, even gases can act as solvents.

In science, solvents are useful for chemical analysis by titration, chromatography, spectrometry.

In industry, solvents fundamental in extraction, purification and also molding of substances into shapes.

There are different types of solvents available and used based on the need.

Examples of Solvents:

There are many solvents, but the universal solvent is water. It is least expensive, most commonly used and helps dissolve many substances.

Besides the solvent water based on need, one can opt for ethanol, oils and petroleum oils like kerosene and petrol.

But for research and industry, the list of solvents used include

Different types of solvents

Solvents can be briefly classified based on their chemical nature and behavior.

A. Based upon Polarity:examples of solvents

In general, most solvents have polarity due to their internal chemistry.

This polarity is due to the concentration of opposite charges on one of the elements inside a solvent molecule.

It imparts changes on the solute molecule structure such that they get dissolved by forming ions.

When a solute is mixed in a solvent, the solvent molecules dissolve the solute by separating apart the solute molecules using forces like hydrogen bonding, Vanderwal forces, etc.

Example: Sodium chloride has NaCl molecule, which breaks into Na+ and Cl- ions when dissolved in water.

1. Polar solvents: These are solvents having a dielectric constant of more than 15. They can dissolve salts and other ionizable solutes. Polar solvents examples include water, alcohol. Polar solutes like the salts dissolve in polar solvents.

2. Non-polar solvents. These solvents are nonpolar and have dielectric constants less than 15. They cannot form inter-molecular bonds by use of hydrogen bonding, Vanderwal forces, etc. Hence they cannot dissolve polar compounds. Non polar solvents examples include Benzene, CCl4.

Fats and oils are soluble in non-polar solvents. Hence to remove lipids from an extract, petroleum ether is used in industry.

B. Based on Chemical nature:

1. Aprotic solvents: (No protons). These solvents are nonreactive and chemically inert. They neither take protons nor give protons. Ex: benzene (C6H6). Chloroform (CHCl3).

2. Amphiprotic solvents: Theses solvents which can provide and take up protons on reaction. They have a neutral pH. Ex: Water, alcohol.

3. Protogenic solvents (proton+genesis = give): These are the solvents acidic by nature. They can donate a proton and hence called as “protogenic.” Ex: HCL, H2SO4, perchloric acid.

4. Protophyllic solvents: These are the solvents which take up protons. They are basic by nature and are mostly alkalies. Ex: NaOH, KOH, etc.

These the and protophilic solvents can be again classified as leveling agents and differentiating agents.

A strong acid or base is leveling agents as it can donate or accept protons to even weak base or acid respectively.

While weak acids and weak bases cannot do so, they can only give proton to strong base or take up a proton from strong acid respectively.  Hence due to this differentiation, they are called differentiating agents.

C) Based on chemistry:

Solvents are also classified based on their center of chemistry due to the presence of some particular elements. These unique elements in solvents bring a total change in their physical and chemical properties.

Inorganic solvents: Solvents without carbon are called inorganic solvents. Ex: water, NaOH, HCl

Organic solvents. Solvents having carbon are called organic solvents. Ex: Alcohols (CH3OH), hydrocarbons solvents like Benzene.

Halogenated solvents: Solvents having halogens are called halogenated solvents. Halogens are elements found in the 17th group of the periodic table.

Based on their behavior and properties, solvents are selected for purposes like acid-base titration, complexometry, extraction procedures, solubilization, chromatography, spectrophotometry, etc.

The above nature seems highly specific. Because sugar (C12H22O12) molecules appear to be organic by nature due to the presence of carbon in it. But interestingly sugar is insoluble in organic solvents like benzene. This is because sugar molecules have polarity and require polar solvents to dissolve. Hence we see sugar dissolves well in plain water which is inorganic but having polarity.

So among the types of solvents available, to dissolve a solute, one should consider both chemistry and also polarity.

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