How Does Soap Work?

Soap is one of those things that you usually do not think about. You use it constantly and it is everywhere. But, how does this magical liquid, sold around the world, actually clean?

It is first important to break down what soap is in its most basic form. Soap is a combination of an acid and a base. The acid in this soap compound is a fatty acid and triglycerides. The base of this compound is usually sodium hydroxide. When the combination of the two acids and bases occur it creates a process of saponification. Saponification is the process of turning an oil, fat, or lipid into a salt by binding it with an ion. In this case, triglycerides will separate from the fatty acids to let the fatty acid bind with a sodium hydroxide ion. This combination creates a salt or what is commonly called soap in this case.

Saponification-The process of Making Soap (Theory) : Class 10 : Chemistry : Amrita Online Lab

So, why is this special combination of acids and bases create a compound that we use to clean our hands, body, dishes, and hundreds of other things? The salt that is created from saponification is an amphipathic molecule. This means that one end of the molecule is polar while the other end of the molecule is non-polar. In other terms, the polar end of the molecule can bind to things such as water and is termed the hydrophilic end. The non-polar end of the molecule is “afraid” of water and binds to things such as oils and grease.

When applying soap to your hands, dishes, and body these amphipathic soap compounds will arrange themselves around particles of oil, dirt, grease, and bacteria using their hydrophobic ends. This creates a capsule around the targeted substance and when you rinse with water, the hydrophilic ends help carry the capsule away and down the drain. This is why washing with water does not work well, because water does not attach to oils.

What are the differences between soaps though? The main difference between soaps is the kinds of acids, bases, scents, textures, and amount of water mixed with the soap. Some of these characteristics will lead to a stronger soap such as a stronger hydrophobic molecule. Other characteristics are to make the soap more enjoyable for the customer.

One of the most common misconceptions of soap is that it kills bacteria and pathogens. This is far from true. As shown before, soap does not kill bacteria and pathogens but, removes them from the surface. Oftentimes, you will find that companies label their soaps Antibacterial or Antimicrobial. In a sense, this is very true, but for it to remove 99.9% of germs as it says, you would have to keep most soaps and disinfectants on the area for at least two minutes. This is why surgeons are required to wash for five minutes!

Koi Fish: Culture Meets Biology

The Koi fish is known for being a symbol of strength, courage, and patience. Known for swimming against the current, the Koi fish symbolizes what it takes to overcome obstacles and challenges that are in your path. Koi fish were believed to originate from rice farmers domesticating carp in China during the 4th century. The breeding between the colorful types of carp resulted in the diversity of Koi fish you see today.

Koi fish do not only have historical and spiritual importance but their biology is fascinating as well. They typically grow between the sizes of 24 to 36 inches but, they can grow up to 52 inches! That is the size of an average 10-year-old boy! They also have extremely long lives for fish. They have the chance to live up to 100 years with the typical range being somewhere between 25 to 35 years. Even though these fish are cold-water fish, they benefit heavily when being placed in waters above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because Koi fish that are in waters below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods can begin to develop a weakened immune system. This can reduce the lifespan of the fish as well as decrease overall health.

One of the coolest things about Koi fish is what happens to them when they are placed back into the wild. Since Koi fish is a relatively new species in comparison to other animals, they still have all the genes of their ancestor carps. After a few generations of being left in the wild, they will no longer be identified as a Koi and revert to an Amur Carp.

Epithelial Cells: What Are They?

On the surface of your entire body, there is a special type of cell that is meant to protect you from mechanical, chemical, and pathological harm. These cells are called epithelial cells and there are many types. The three main shapes that an epithelial cell can be are squamous, cuboidal, and columnar.

Squamous cells are shaped like a flattened disc, similar to a frisbee. These cells are usually located in areas of abrasion or transport based on how many layers there are. Cuboidal epithelial tissue is a square-shaped epithelial cell. These cells provide a moderate amount of protection from abrasion and are usually found in areas where secretion happens like the mammary glands. Finally, the last shape is columnar. Columnar epithelial cells are rectangular in shape and their height is longer than their width. These cells are found in areas where absorption and secretions occur such as your stomach. They provide the maximum amount of protection for a cell.

The other way of identifying epithelial cells is by the number of cells in an area. These classifications are called simple and stratified. Simple epithelial tissues are tissues that are only one cell thick. These types of cells will be in areas such as the lungs where diffusion can take place easily. Stratified epithelium is cells that are two or more cells thick. They are located everywhere else in the body and can have a multitude of functions such as protection and secretion.

Epithelial cells are not just for protection, however. These cells create glands that produce sweat and other products. They are even in the membranes that surround your organs. They may seem like they have small importance in your body but, without them, we would not last a few minutes alive.