Topics - Solvent

Solvent The term solvent is often used as a misnomer the cause for which has evolved over many years with the development of chemistry. Basically a solvent should be considered as a liquid in which a specific substance is soluble (e.g. water is a solvent for sucrose and n-heptane is not a solvent for sugar; methylene chloride is a solvent for fat and water is not a solvent for fat.). However, due to common use of all organic liquids as solvents, the word solvent has come to be used as a collective name for all types of organic liquids e.g. hydrocarbons, chorohydrocarbons, ethers, esters, ketones, alcohols etc.; all these liquids are considered to be ‘solvents’. This leads to an apparently ridiculous statement in a recent publication “the sample of ground cement was suspended in a solvent to estimate the particle size by sedimentation”. The term solvent in this example is used as a term for an organic liquid and, in fact, the success of the test depends on the cement being insoluble in the solvent. So much for the complexity of scientific terminology. It is clear that when using the word solvent its meaning must be unambiguously indicated by the sentence construction.