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A hydrophile is a molecule or other molecular entity that is attracted to water molecules and tends to be dissolved by water. In contrast, hydrophobes are not attracted to water and may seem to be repelled by it.
A hydrophilic molecule or portion of a molecule is one whose interactions with water and other polar substances are more thermodynamically favorable than their interactions with oil or other hydrophobic solvents. They are typically charge-polarized and capable of hydrogen bonding. This makes these molecules soluble not only in water but also in other polar solvents.
Hydrophilic molecules (and portions of molecules) can be contrasted with hydrophobic molecules (and portions of molecules). In some cases, both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties occur in a single molecule. An example of these amphiphilic molecules is the lipids that comprise the cell membrane. Another example is soap, which has a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail, allowing it to dissolve in both water and oil.
An approximate rule of thumb for hydrophilicity of organic compounds is that solubility of a molecule in water is more than 1 mass % if there is at least one neutral hydrophile group per 5 carbons, or at least one electrically charged hydrophile group per 7 carbons.
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