MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: Salt ionizes in water so why does salt water taste salty?

Date: Wed Oct 7 12:15:25 1998
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 904219315.Ch

When sodium and chloride ion dissociate in water, they don't actually go 
rocketing off in opposite directions.  Rather, they stay 'associated' with 
one another, held within a given proximity by their respective 
electro-negativities.  A change in pH will cause that proximal distance to 
change, and thus, a change in taste.  For instance, salt water tastes very 
much like salt, but salt disolved in something acidic such as lime juice 
will have a very different taste.  Our taste buds are designed to be 
stimulated 'from both ends' simultaneously by both the sodium and the 
chloride ion.  If the ions don't separate, on the other hand, they can (as 
salt crystals) have no flavor since the valence electron orbitals are 
completely associated together in the ionic pairing (bond) and will have no 
interaction with your taste buds.  I don't know what either sodium or 
chlorine tastes like, but obviously not like salt.  The taste bud has to 
get it from both ions at the same time in order to register as 'salt.'

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