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The Properties of Water

The Properties of Water

Author: Nathan Lampson

This lesson will provide an understanding of the chemical and physical nature of water.

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Surface Tension

Water has many unusual properties that exist because of its polar nature. Water molecules bind to one another with hydrogen bonds.  When water molecules are attracted to one another it is called cohesion.  The reason some insects are able to walk on the surface of water is because the weight of the insect is unable to break the hydrogen bonds between water molecules. Surface tension is the strength of the bonds in water that prevent the surface of water from being broken.

Capillary Action

Water molecules don't just stick to themselves, they also stick to the sides of a tube. If you put a drinking straw in a glass of water, the water in the straw will appear to be higher than the rest of the water in the glass.  Water clings to fabrics and materials and makes them wet due to capillary action.

Universal Solvent

Water is known as a universal solvent because it is able to dissolve many types of materials. Other materials that are being dissolved are called solutes.  The charged parts of the water molecule are attracted to other molecules and cause them to dissolve.  Water can dissolve things like sugar and bleach. 

Specific Heat

Specific heat is the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of a substance.  When swimming in a lake on a hot summer day, the water is cooler than the air temperature.  The water is cool because it requires much more energy in order to change the temperature of water than it does to change the temperature of air. At night if you were to swim in the same lake, the air temperature would be cool and the water would seem warm.  Water does not change temperature as easily as air does.

The Properties of Water