Hydrophobic vs. Hydrophilic

I have been defeated by hydrophobicity.

For my first science-related post, I will explain the difference between something that is hydrophobic and something that is hydrophilic.

These words share the first half, “hydro,” which is a combining form that relates a word to water (e.g. hydrodynamic, Hydro-Québec). The second half of the word indicates whether a substance dislikes water (-phobic) or likes water (-philic).

If you have an object that is hydrophilic, it will act all flirty around water, want to take it to dinner, and immerse itself in the liquid splendor that is H2O. Eventually, it will dissolve, losing all form and reason merely from the sheer bliss of being in water’s presence.

However, if you have an object that is hydrophobic, it will thumb its nose at the mere thought of water, push water away if it dares come near, and recoil from its repulsive touch.

I repeat: I have been defeated by hydrophobicity. I’ve been helping Wenhan out with his experiments and he gave me a few chips today, warning me that they were very hydrophobic. I figured he was a bit of a worrywart and told him everything would be fine.

How wrong I was.

When I tried to pipette out droplets onto the chips, instead of spreading nicely around to cover all the leads, the droplets just aggregated to form one huge lump of a droplet, only covering the centre leads, and when moved, the droplet lump just fell off the chip entirely.

After a few more futile tries to cover the edge leads and several frantic texts to Wenhan (he was in class and therefore useless), I tried pipetting a small droplet onto each lead individually. But to no avail…

In the end I gave up, decided to just stick with the lumps, and, hesitant to move the chips in case the lumps fell off again, instead of placing my dish of chips into a drawer to incubate in darkness as I usually do, I covered it with a Styrofoam box cover (the kind we get from shipping orders) and taped it to my workbench.

We’ll see if the experiment works tomorrow.


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