- Jan 16, 2019-

A popular aphorism used for predicting solubility is "like dissolves like" also expressed in the Latin language as "Similia similibus solventur". This statement indicates that a solute will dissolve best in a solvent that has a similar chemical structure to itself. This view is simplistic, but it is a useful rule of thumb. The overall solvation capacity of a solvent depends primarily on its polarity. For example, a very polar (hydrophilic) solute such as urea is very soluble in highly polar water, less soluble in fairly polar methanol, and practically insoluble in non-polar solvents such as benzene. In contrast, a non-polar or lipophilic solute such as naphthalene is insoluble in water, fairly soluble in methanol, and highly soluble in non-polar benzene.

In even more simple terms a simple ionic compound (with positive and negative ions) such as sodium chloride (common salt) is easily soluble in a highly polar solvent (with some separation of positive (δ+) and negative (δ-) charges in the covalent molecule) such as water, as thus the sea is salty as it accumulates dissolved salts since early geological ages.

The solubility is favored by entropy of mixing (ΔS) and depends on enthalpy of dissolution (ΔH) and the hydrophobic effect. The free energy of dissolution (Gibbs energy) depends on temperature and is given by the relationship: ΔG = ΔH – TΔS.

Chemists often exploit differences in solubilities to separate and purify compounds from reaction mixtures, using the technique of liquid-liquid extraction. This applies in vast areas of chemistry from drug synthesis to spent nuclear fuel reprocessing.