Why does ethanol disrupt the cell surface membrane?

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arcadia087
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#1
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Hiya-
For AQA biology RP4 ethanol makes the cell surface membrane more permeable- is anyone able to tell me why this is please?
I can’t find a clear answer online.
If anyone knows of a past paper question where ethanol and cell surface membranes were involved as well that would be amazing.
Thank you!!
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jonny1985_2
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Ethanol is a solvent so I would suggest investigating why 'solvents' affect membrane permeability.

This is what I found:
Ethanol is a non-polar solvent so it is able to dissolve non-polar substances such as lipids. This means that if you place a cell in ethanol, its membrane will become permeable and allow substances to leak into and out of the cell. As the ethanol concentration increases, membrane permeability will increase.
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arcadia087
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#3
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(Original post by jonny1985_2)
Ethanol is a solvent so I would suggest investigating why 'solvents' affect membrane permeability.

This is what I found:
Ethanol is a non-polar solvent so it is able to dissolve non-polar substances such as lipids. This means that if you place a cell in ethanol, its membrane will become permeable and allow substances to leak into and out of the cell. As the ethanol concentration increases, membrane permeability will increase.
But surely ethanol isn’t a non-polar solvent?? It has a hydroxyl group which naturally makes it polar no? Thats what confused me as I saw that online too!!! Do you have any idea how that could work?
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MoJam
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#4
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(Original post by arcadia087)
But surely ethanol isn’t a non-polar solvent?? It has a hydroxyl group which naturally makes it polar no? Thats what confused me as I saw that online too!!! Do you have any idea how that could work?
ethyl group is non-polar. ethanol can dissolve both polar and non-polar substances
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jonny1985_2
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#5
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It appears it can do both?!

Ethanol is a very polar molecule due to its hydroxyl (OH) group, which forms hydrogen bonds with other molecules.
The ethyl (C2H5) group in ethanol is non-polar.

Having a polar and non-polar group, ethanol can dissolve both polar molecules, such as water and non-polar molecules such as hexane.
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