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Submitted by lpotter on Mon, 02/11/2019 - 16:28

The hydrophobic effect is something that is very interesting and that I didn’t understand until recently. Essentially what the hydrophobic effect states is that hydrophobic molecules will clump together in an aqueous environment. This is because water like high entropy, or high disorder, something that nature favors. When there are hydrophobic molecules in water the water can’t interact with them and start to form ordered cages around the molecules. Water doesn’t want to do this because that means that it is more ordered. In response to this water clumps the hydrophobic molecules so that there is less surface area. This means that less water molecules will be taking part in making the ordered cage around the molecule and since less water molecules are ordered the overall disorder (entropy) of the system is significantly higher. So the hydrophobic molecules themselves aren’t what cause the clumping it is the nature of the water molecules. It is the opposite with hydrophilic molecules. Most hydrophilic molecules have an ionic nature to them. Water can interact with this bond and break it apart. Water then forms a shell around the free atom. This allows water to stay disordered. You can see this in instances when you put salt or sugar into water, the molecules dissolve and appear to become part of the liquid.