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Chemistry (including Biochemistry)/Electrolytic solutions and ions

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Question
I have recently been tasked with making an electrolytic drink for my Chemistry class and I have a few questions for you.  Are their any solutions that can't ions can't dissolve in to become electrolytes, and if there are, why? Also, water is commonly used as the solvent, but why? Is it because the ion-molecule attraction of ionic compounds to water is stronger than in other liquids? Thank you for considering these questions to help my better understanding of electrolytes and electrolytic solutions.   

Thank you, Sarah Comer

Answer
Hi Sarah!

If you check the second definition of electrolyte here:

https://www.google.com/search?q=definition%3A+electrolyte&oq=definition%3A+electrolyte

You see the word 'ionized'. To ionize something is to break it into pieces that each have an electric charge. Chemists refer to these things as 'polar' when there is a strong difference in electronegative charge between two atoms. Most of the time you can spot the polar atom because it has nonbonded lone pairs of electrons, which contribute negative charge.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_polarity

Water is perhaps the most polar solvent on the planet; after all, an oxygen atom has two pairs of unbonded electrons to contribute negative charge! So it would make sense that most ionizeable compounds would dissolve in water.

There are liquids that do not dissolve electrolytes well. Chemists refer to them as nonpolar solvents. If you google nonpolar solvents I'm sure you will get an extensive list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_polarity#Nonpolar_molecules

A good example of a nonpolar solvent would be octane, or gasoline. Since the octane molecules are uncharged, they are very nonpolar. Something like NaCl (table salt) does not dissolve well in gasoline because the charged atoms in salt would much rather play with each other than go deal with the octane molecules. Contrariwise, if you put salt crystals in water the sodium and chlorine ions immediately are more attracted to the water molecules than each other, and the salt crystals dissolve.

So, an electrolyte drink is usually one made with sugar and salt, as well as other flavorings. If you want to bring in something a little different to your class, you could bring a mixture of polar and nonpolar molecules that folks from India find refreshing in hot weather: look up "salt lassi recipe" on Google. :) Then you could talk about the importance of stirring up the mixture, as well as which molecules dissolved in water vs. dissolved in the yogurt solids. :)

Hope your chemistry class was tasty!

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Trista Robichaud, PhD

Expertise

No homework questions, especially ones copied and pasted from textbooks. I will answer questions about principles or give hints, but I do not do other's homework. I'm comfortable answering basic biochemistry, chemistry, and biology questions up to and including an undergraduate level of understanding. This includes molecular biology, protein purification, and genetics. My training/inclination is primarily in structural biology, or how the shapes of things affect their function. Other interests include protein design, protein engineering, enzyme kinetics, and metabolic diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. My chemistry weaknesses are that I do not know organic or inorganic synthesis well, nor am I familiar with advanced inorganic reactions. I will attempt quantum mechanics and thermodynamics questions, but primarily as they relate to biological systems. Furthermore, I cannot tell you if a skin photograph is cancerous, or otherwise diagnose any disease. I can tell you how we currently understand the basic science behind a disease state, but I cannot recommend treatment in any way. Please direct such questions to your medical professional.

Experience

I hold a PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. I specialize in Biochemistry, with a focus on protein chemistry. My thesis work involved the structure and functions of the human glucose transporter 1. (hGLUT1) Currently I am a postdoc working in peptide (mini-protein) design and enzymology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. I am in Bjorn Steffensen's lab (PhD, DDS), studying gelatinase A and oral carcinoma.

Organizations
2001 American Association for the Advancement of Science
2007 American Chemical Society
2007 Protein Society
2011 UTHSCSA Women’s Faculty Association


Publications
Levine KB, Robichaud TK, Hamill S, Sultzman LA, Carruthers A. Properties of the human erythrocyte glucose transport protein are determined by cellular context. Biochemistry 44(15):5606-16, 2005. (PMID 15823019)
Robichaud TK, Appleyard AN, Herbert RB, Henderson PJ, Carruthers A “Determinants of ligand binding affinity and cooperativity at the GLUT1 endofacial site” Biochemistry 50(15):3137-48, 2011. (PMID 21384913)
Xu X, Mikhailova M, Chen Z, Pal S, Robichaud TK, Lafer EM, Baber S, Steffensen B. “Peptide from the C-terminal domain of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-2 (TIMP-2) inhibits membrane activation of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2)” Matrix Biol. 2011 Sep;30(7-8):404-12. (PMID: 21839835)
Robichaud TK, Steffensen B, Fields GB. Exosite interactions impact matrix metalloproteinase collagen specificities. J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 28;286(43):37535-42 (PMID: 21896477)

Poster Abstracts:
Robichaud TK, Carruthers. A "Mutagenesis of the Human type 1 glucose transporter exit site: A functional study." ACS 234th Meeting, Boston MA. Division of Biological Chemistry, 2007
Robichaud TK, Bhowmick M, Tokmina-Roszyk D, Fields GB “Synthesis and Analysis of MT1-MMP Peptide Inhibitors” Biological Chemistry Division of the Protein Society Meeting, San Diego CA 2010
Robichaud TK; Tokmina-Roszyk D; Steffensen B and Fields GB “Catalytic Domain Exosites Contribute to Determining Matrix Metalloproteinase Triple Helical Collagen Specificities” Dental Science Symposium. UTHSCSA 2011
Robichaud TK; Tokmina-Roszyk D; Steffensen B and Fields GB “Exosite Interactions Determine Matrix Metalloproteinase Specificities” Gordon Research Conference on Matrix Metalloproteinase Biology, Bristol RI 2011


Education/Credentials
Oakland University, Auburn Hills MI BS, Biochemistry 1998
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester MA PhD, Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology 2001-2008
University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio TX Postdoc, Biochemistry 2009-Present


Awards and Honors
1998 Honors College Graduate, Oakland University
2009 Institutional National Research Service Award, Pathobiology of Occlusive Vascular Disease T32 HL07446
2011 1st Place, Best Postdoctoral Poster, Dental Science Symposium, UTHSCSA, April 2011


Past/Present Clients
Invited Seminars:
Robichaud TK, Fields GB. “Synthesis and Analysis of MTI-MMP Triple Helical Peptide Inhibitors” Pathology Research Conference, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Pathology Department (June 18th, 2010)
Robichaud TK & Hill, B “How To Give A Great Scientific Talk” Invited Lecture, Pathobiology of Occlusive Vascular Disease Seminars, UTHSCSA (Nov 11th 2010), Cardiology Seminar Series, Texas Research Park (Feb 21st, 2011)
Robichaud TK; Tokmina-Roszyk D; Steffensen B and Fields GB “Exosite Interactions Determine Matrix Metalloproteinase Specificities” Gordon-Keenan Research Seminar “Everything You Wanted to Know About Matrix Metalloproteinases But Were Afraid to Ask” Bristol, RI (Aug 6th, 2011)

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