Essay on Physical and Chemical Properties of Water and Their Relationship to Life
Number of words: 1072
Water is an essential component of life. To exist, organisms require a liquid channel for transportation of vital molecules within their bodies. That liquid medium is water. This paper examines the unique physical and chemical properties of water and their contribution to the sustenance of life on earth.
Surface tension is the measurement of the amount of force that is required to break the skin on the surface of the water. The cohesive forces between water molecules are responsible for the surface tension (“Learn about water,” 2017). The surface tension in the water is created by the hydrogen bonds. This prevents water from spreading out in a film and enables it to remain sticky and elastic.
This property is essential for the capillary action which enables the smooth movement of water from the plant roots to the leaves. Additionally, surface tension allows water striders to walk or even skim over water without sinking into it (“Learn about water,” 2017). Water is moved through small blood vessels in animals through capillary action
High Specific Heat
Water has unusually high specific heat (“Learn about water,” 2017). More energy is required to raise the temperature of one gram of water than any other liquid. As water gets heated, much of the added energy is used to break down the strong covalent hydrogen bonds. However, the overall temperature of the water does not increase as much as it would for any other liquid with relatively lower intermolecular forces. Consequently, water needs to absorb large amounts of heat before it gets hot.
On the same note, water releases great amounts of heat during the cooling process (“Learn about water,” 2017). This high specific heat is responsible for the ability of the seas and oceans to act as a thermal reservoir that controls changes in the Earth’s temperature day and nights thus making the planet suitable for the existence of organisms (“Learn about water,” 2017).
Adhesion is another important physical property of water. It is the bonding of water molecules to other substances (“Cohesion and adhesion of water,” 2018). This is made possible by the ability of hydrogen bonds in water to break and reform with great frequency. The constant flexible rearrangement of these bonds allows all molecules in any given water sample to form a bond with other substances.
Interestingly, though water likes to stick to itself, it prefers more to stick to other types of molecules (“Cohesion and adhesion of water,” 2018). Adhesion forces enable water to rise upwards through thin glass tubes. Such a movement depends greatly on the ability of the water molecules to attract the walls of the tubes. Adhesion is responsible for the efficient drainage of tears from the tear ducts to the corners of the eyes. Moreover, adhesion alongside surface tension forces it enables insects to stay afloat on the surface of the water.
Water acts as a solvent to many chemical substances (“Water and living organisms”, n.d.). Many organic compounds, as well as other important biochemical, are polar. Water being a strong polar solvent acts as a universal solvent to all these polar substances. Nonpolar substances such as oil do not dissolve in water. The oxygen atoms of water molecules are attracted to cations and water molecules surround it (“Water and living organisms”, n.d.).
The water molecules then attract more water molecules and hydrogen bonds form between them. Molecular compounds in organisms such as sugars, amino acids, nucleic acids and proteins easily dissolve in water. This makes it easy for these molecules to be transported to all parts of the living organisms. Additionally, water acts as the universal solvent for the many chemical reactions that happen within the body.
Each molecule of water consists of one atom of oxygen and two atoms of hydrogen. Each water molecule has some of it part positively charged and the other negatively charged (Powers, 2017). This creates a difference in electrical charge between the different parts of the molecule resulting in water polarity. Most of the essential properties of water are determined by the extent of molecule’s polarity. They include the melting point, boiling point, solubility, and the capillary action (Powers, 2017).
Water polarity allows the interaction with non-polar molecules like fatty acids which are crucial in the human body. The bond between water and fatty acids in the body makes compartmentalizing membranes, which is the basic building block of life (Powers, 2017). In addition, the capillary action which is a result of hydrogen bonding enables plants to take up water.
Water has unique physical and chemical properties that are essential for life on earth to survive. Some of the chemical properties include surface tension, adhesion, and high specific heat. Some of the chemical properties of water that are necessary for the survival of organisms are solvency and polarity. Surface tension and cohesion properties of water enable the smooth movement of water from the roots to the leaves of the plants as well as the movement of water in the blood vessels. The high specific heat of water in the oceans regulates the earth’s temperature and keeps it at minimal state. Polarity and solvency enable chemical reactions to happen in the body. Moreover, they enable the bondage between the water and fatty acids. It can be seen that water is an essential component of life and without it, life would be non-existent.
Cohesion and adhesion of water. (2018). Khan Academy. Retrieved 13 February 2018, from https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/water-acids-and-bases/cohesion-and-adhesion/a/cohesion-and-adhesion-in-water
Learn about water. (2017). Scifun.chem.wisc.edu. Retrieved 13 February 2018, from http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/CHEMWEEK/Water2017.pdf
Powers, J. (2017). The Effects of Water’s Polarity on Living Things. Sciencing. Retrieved 13 February 2018, from https://sciencing.com/effects-waters-polarity-living-things-8480700.html
Water and living organisms. Rsc.org. Retrieved 13 February 2018, from http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/cfb/water.htm