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Mixing oil and water

Page history last edited by Joe Redish 5 years, 9 months ago



Two students are discussing how oil behaves when it is mixed in water.


Alice: The electrostatic interaction between non‐polar lipid tails and water is stronger than the electrostatic interaction between two non‐polar lipid tails. Therefore, it is more favorable (i.e., lower energy) for lipid molecules to be surrounded by water molecules than it is for them to clump together amongst themselves.


Bob: I know that lipids spontaneously clump together when placed in water. I’ve  seen it happen!  Therefore, since that is what spontaneously happens, the lowest energy state of the system must be the one in which the lipids are clumped together.


Can you reconcile Alice’s and Bob’s statements?




Ben Geller 10/3/13

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