Monday, February 27, 2012

Chemistry Thursday (on a Monday!): Electrolytes

What are electrolytes? (And are they really what plants crave?) "An electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. The most typical electrolyte is an ionic solution, but molten electrolytes and solid electrolytes are also possible. Commonly, electrolytes are solutions of acids, bases or salts." (From Wikipedia). In other words, when you take something like sodium chloride - a salt - and mix it into a solvent - like water - you have an electrolyte! (If you add a little sugar and colouring to this mixture, you've got Gatorade!)

You might recall from yesterday that when we have more salt on one side of a barrier than another, osmosis tries to balance the concentration of salt so both sides have the same amount. We can extrapolate this to mean that if we have more electrolytes on one side of a barrier, osmosis will kick in to try make things even. This is one of the reasons we drink things like Gatorade when we're exercising - as we sweat, we lose salt, so we try to replenish it with something containing electrolytes.

If you're making a gel, electrolytes become really important because some gels will not gel if the concentration of electrolytes is really high. Aloe vera is very high in electrolytes, which is why it can be difficult to create your own aloe vera gel!

*If you want to know what plants crave, check out this clip from Idiocracy on Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator! If you haven't seen this movie, I encourage you to check it out. I don't tend to watch a lot of movies - I think the last one I saw was Up, which was just lovely, or Flight 666 - but Idiocracy was awesome! 


Clive said...

OMG yes, Idiocracy is one of my all time favourite movies. Frankly US politics is getting rather similar...

Anonymous said...

Loooooool very funny vid

Nice post


Kelly Tanner said...

Would GABA powder (gamma-aminobuturic acid) and msm powder work in an eye gel I have searched internet over to find out if they are high in electrolytes like say aloe Vera and I just can't find an answer. My search for gaba lead me to site selling weight building electrolyte powders which then made me think it probably was.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Kelly. Have you checked out the posts I've written about both MSM and GABA in the cosmeceuticals section of the blog?