Why is water so widely used as a solvent?

1 Answer
May 5, 2017

Because most materials display some solubility in the stuff.


Water is distinguished by (i) its physical size; and (ii) by its involatility, which is absurdly high for such a small molecule. Compare the boiling point of water with those of other small molecules, #NH_3#, or #PH_3#, or #CH_4#. Of course, we can attribute this involatility to the forces of intermolecular interaction. (And also, because it's got a high boiling point, we can give solutions a blast with a heat gun in order to get the solute up.)

Most materials, polar or not, express SOME water solubility. For experimental chemists, most of the time, the challenge is to dry their reaction solvents, and remove the water.