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Key conceptsChemistrySolutionsMiscibilityPolaritySolubility

IntroductionYou probably understand some liquids, such as oil and also water, perform not mix together. If you to water them right into the exact same container, castle will form separate liquid layers, one on height of the other. Other liquids, for instance rubbing alcohol and also water, deserve to be combined with every other. But did you know that as soon as both of this liquids have mixed you can separate them again right into two different layers? How deserve to you execute that? The answer could surprise you—with salt! In this task you will find out just how this works.

You are watching: How to separate alcohol and water mixture

BackgroundWhen two liquids deserve to be mixed together, they space “miscible”—they form something referred to as a homogeneous solution, which way that friend cannot differentiate the 2 liquids anymore. In contrast, when they can not be mixed, they are “immiscible”—they will type two different layers, called a heterogeneous solution. To be able to mix, the molecule of both liquids have to have the ability to attract one another. Molecules that space polar (meaning their electric charge is spread unevenly so they have actually a much more positive side and a much more negative side) have tendency to form hydrogen binding whereas nonpolar molecule (which have actually an equal charge balance) execute not often tend to kind such bonds. Due to the fact that water molecules are polar, any kind of liquid that does not have actually polar molecules—such together oil—is generally immiscible through water.

Rubbing alcohol molecules have a polar and nonpolar part, which method they are able to type hydrogen bonds v water and therefore able come mix with it. Yet how can you break these bonds in order to separate both liquids once they room mixed? You have to include something come the mixture the competes with the alcohol in binding come the water molecules. One problem that have the right to do the is salt. Salt is one ionic compound, an interpretation it is a substance made up of electrically charged molecules dubbed ions. When ionic compound dissolve in water, the individual ions separate and get surrounded by water molecules—a procedure called solvation. Due to the fact that the salt ions are charged, lock dissolve much much better in a polar solvent, which is also slightly an ext charged than a nonpolar solvent. For this reason, salt ions lure the water molecules much more strongly than alcohol molecule do because alcohol is less polar than water. This means that once there is a most salt, every the water molecules will certainly bond to the salt ions, leaving no one to form hydrogen bonds v the alcohol molecules. As a result, the alcohol becomes immiscible with water and starts to kind a different layer. This process is dubbed “salting out,” or “salt-induced step separation.”

Historically this technique has been used in the soap-making process to eliminate ingredients that should not it is in in the final soap product. Salting out is additionally commonly used in biochemistry laboratories come purify proteins, because different protein molecules end up being immiscible at various concentrations the salt solutions. Chemists use this an approach to extract liquids the end of a solution, i m sorry is what you space going to do in this activity: you will separate a rubbing alcohol and water mixture using simply a tespoon of table salt!


Four transparent mini cup (two ounces) through lidsPermanent markerTap waterRubbing alcohol (70 percent isopropyl alcohol)Table saltSet of measuring spoonsWork area that deserve to tolerate spillsEthanol or acetone (can be discovered in hardware stores) (optional)Salt substitute such as potassium chloride or Epsom salt (optional)


With the long-term marker label the mini cups 1, 2, 3 and 4.Add one and a half tablespoons the water to cup 1 and 3.Add one and also a fifty percent tablespoons that rubbing alcohol to cups 2 and also 4.


Add one teaspoon of salt come the water in cup 1. What wake up to the salt? Does the dissolve in the water?Put ~ above the lid and also shake the cup for about 20 to 30 seconds. What walk the mixture look like?Repeat the previous two actions using cup 2 (with rubbing alcohol). What happens to the salt this time? walk the mixture look various from the water–salt mixture?Take the lid off the long-term marker and also swirl its tip in the water in cup 3 for about 10 seconds. Put the lid ~ above the cup and shake that for 5 seconds. Does the ink dissolve in the water? What does the systems look choose after shaking?Repeat the previous step with cup 4 (rubbing alcohol). Does the resulting mixture look different? If so, what is different? can you explain the differences?Next, pour the alcohol from cup 4 into the water in cup 3. Placed the lid earlier on and swirl the mixture for five seconds. Does the rubbing alcohol mix v the water? What happens to the color of the mixture? perform you see separate layers forming?Now, include one tespoon of salt to the mixture in cup 3. Put the lid top top the cup and also shake it for 20 come 30 seconds. What happens once you include the salt to the mixture? walk the mixture look different before and also after shaking? If so, exactly how does that look different? deserve to you define your results? What shade is the mixture?Extra: Can girlfriend separate other liquid mixtures using salt? What around ethanol and also water or acetone and also water? shot different fluid mixtures to discover out!Extra: are there any kind of other salts—for example potassium chloride, a salt substitute, or Epsom salt—that you can use to different liquids? Repeat the test, yet this time use a various salt 보다 table salt. Do you still view the very same results? If not—how space your results different?Extra: exactly how much salt perform you must separate the rubbing alcohol and the water? discover out by differing the amounts of salt the you include to the rubbing alcohol and also water mixture.

Observations and also resultsYou should have actually seen the the salt easily dissolved in the water in cup 1. (After shaking the the salt appeared to disappear.) Remember that this occurs due to the fact that the ionic salt molecules conveniently bond come the polar water molecules. The salt, however, did not dissolve as quickly in the rubbing alcohol in cup 2. (Even after ~ shaking that you will certainly still have the ability to see the salt.) This occurs because the alcohol molecules are much less polar than water is, so the salt ions execute not bond with them as easily.

With the irreversible marker ink girlfriend should have actually observed the specific opposite phenomenon. The octopus does no dissolve well in water but it does conveniently in the alcohol, offering the last much much more color. This is because of the fact rubbing alcohol additionally has a portion of the molecule that has no charges, and also is nonpolar. This portion is an ext compatible through nonpolar molecule such together the mite ink.

When you mix the rubbing alcohol v water, the latter’s molecules do hydrogen bonds through the water molecules. The alcohol disappear in the water to kind a homogenous solution, so girlfriend cannot differentiate the alcohol and also the water anymore. If you add salt to the mixture, however, the salt wants to dissolve in the water and also competes with the alcohol for the water molecules. Due to the fact that there space fewer water molecules accessible to do hydrogen bonds v the alcohol molecules, the alcohol becomes less soluble in the water–alcohol mixture, eventually forming a different layer on optimal of the water. Both class should have a different color, with the water largely clear and the alcohol an ext colored. This occurs since the marker ink is an ext soluble in the rubbing alcohol.

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CleanupFlush all her mixtures down the sink with plenty the cold water. Wash her hands and clean your work area.

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