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Biological Importance Of Water Essay

1764 words - 7 pages

Biological Importance of Water

Water is essential to life itself, with out water life on earth would
not exist. Water is a major component of cells, typically forming
between 70 and 95% of the mass of the cell. This means that we are
made from approximately 80% water by mass and some soft bodied
creatures such as jellyfish are made of up to 96% water. Water also
provides an environment for organisms to live in, 75% of the earth is
covered in water.

Water itself is a simple molecule made up of 2 hydrogen atoms and one
oxygen atom, H20. The hydrogen and oxygen atoms are bonded covalently
as shown in the diagram of water's electron structure. Water is not a
linear molecule, the two hydrogen atoms form a bond with the oxygen at
the angle of 104.5o.

Diagram of water's electron structure
Covalent bonds are formed by sharing electrons in the outer orbits of
the quantum shells. In the case of water however the large number of
protons in the oxygen nucleus have a stronger attraction for these
shared electrons than the comparatively tiny hydrogen nuclei. This
pulls the electrons slightly closer to the oxygen nucleus and away
from the hydrogen so that the oxygen develops a slight negative charge
and the hydrogen's a slight positive charge. This makes the molecules
slightly polar.

Diagram of water molecule showing slight charges

This slight charge means that when water molecules are close together
the positively charged hydrogen atoms are attracted to the negatively
charged oxygen atoms of another water molecule to form a weak hydrogen
bond.
The bonds are weak individually but the sheer number of them means
that the total force keeping the molecules together is considerable.

Diagram of water molecules forming hydrogen bonds

Water is an unusual substance, mostly due to it's hydrogen bonds, it's
properties allow it to act as a solvent, a reactant, as a molecule
with a cohesive properties, as an environment and as a temperature
stabiliser.

Water can dissolve polar or ionic substances and can keep them in
solution because of water's own polar properties. Substances that
dissolve in water are know as hydrophilic substances. Ionic substances
such as sodium chloride, NaCl, are made up of positive and negative
ions. Sodium chloride is held in it's structure by the strong
attraction between it's positive sodium ions and negative chloride
ions. Normally these ionic attractions require a large amount of
energy to break but when put into water the negative oxygen side of
the water molecules cluster around the positive sodium ions Na+ and
the positive hydrogen atoms cluster around the negative chloride ions
Cl-. The attraction between the Na+ and Cl- ions is weakened as the
ions are separated.

Diagram of sodium chloride dissolving in water

Water can also...

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