Science Caturday: Is Alcohol the Solution?


Is Chemistry Cat correct? Is alcohol indeed the solution? I know a lot more about cats than about chemistry, so I invited an expert, Dr. Rubidium, a real live chemistry professor with a PhD and everything, to explain:

A solution is a homogeneous mixture – a mixture that looks (to the naked eye) the same throughout.  Throw a bit of salt in water, and voila! Homogeneous mixture.  A solution (homogeneous mixture) doesn’t have to be a liquid!  Air is a solution, i.e. a homogeneous mixture of gases.

For any solution, the chemical present in the largest amount is the solvent and all the other chemicals present are solutes.

Drinking alcohol (ethanol) is a not a mixture, but a pure substance that happens to be a liquid at room temperature and typical atmospheric pressure (your house).

So, pure ethanol is not a solution, but all hard spirits are solutions.  Depending on their proof (amount of ethanol), either ethanol or water will be the solvent.

Laphroaig single-malt scotch, however, is a solution. It’s about 43% ethanol, the rest is mostly water.  Because water is present in the highest amount, water is the solvent and ethanol is the solute.

Two things should be abundantly clear by now: a nice scotch (or gin or bourbon) is the solution, and you should be following @DrRubidium on twitter.

Author: michelebanks1

Artist and blogger

6 thoughts on “Science Caturday: Is Alcohol the Solution?”

  1. Pure alcohol would not be a solution, but because of the molecule’s hydrophilic properties, it “pulls” water vapor out of the air to form an 88% 12% mix. So in effect, any alcohol you encounter on Earth *would* be a solution….

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