The Solubility of Covalent Compounds

Unlike ionic solubility, covalent compound solubility cannot be determined by a table. Instead, structures and three-dimensional shapes must be drawn. Once a correct geometry has been determined, the compound would be classified as being polar on nonpolar. Polar species are soluble in water, while nonpolar species are soluble in oils and fats. Covalent solubility uses the like dissolves like rule. This means that substances with the same type of polarity will be soluble in one another. Moreover, compounds with differing polarities will be insoluble in one another.

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Oil and water form a heterogeneous mixture due to their differing polarities; these substances are immiscible (not mixable) (Figure (PageIndex1a)). In contrast, alcohol dissolves in water to form a homogeneous mixture (Figure (PageIndex1b)).

Figure (PageIndex2): The molecular geometry of a molecule affects its polarity. Each CO bond has a dipole moment, but they point in opposite directions so that the net CO2 molecule is nonpolar. In contrast, water is polar because the OH bond moments do not cancel out.

Carbon dioxide also has local dipoles (arrows) that pull in opposing directions. This molecule does not have an overall pull in one direction and is classified as being nonpolar. Some other molecules are shown in the figure below. The top three assymetrical molecules are all polar. They all have dipoles (pulls) that do not cancel. All of these molecules would be soluble in water. The bottom three molecules are nonpolar. These are symmetrical molecules that have dipoles that cancel. Both of these molecules would be oil or fat soluble.

Figure (PageIndex3): Some examples of polar and nonpolar molecules based on molecular geometry.

Covalent solubility is important in the pharmaceutical industry. If a medication is not water soluble, then it will not dissolve in the bloodstream and react in the active site of the body in a timely and potent fashion. Watch the video below to obtain a basic understanding of how ibuprofen travels through the body to reduce pain and/or inflammation.

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The polarity of vitamins can affect how long they remain in the body. Vitamins B and C are both water soluble and remain in the body for a short period of time. Our bodies must intake these vitamins more frequently. On the other hand, vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat or oil soluble. Nutrients that are fat soluble remain in the body longer. These vitamins accumulate easily and can be toxic if recommended doses are surpassed.