Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction in which an organic chemical (RX) reacts with water or a hydroxide ion (OH) as follows:

During these reactions, a leaving group (X) is replaced by a hydroxyl ion (OH), and a new carbon-oxygen bond is formed. The R represents the carbonium ion and the X the leaving group. Common leaving groups include halides (CP, Br"), alcohols (R—O"), and amines (R1R2N"). The acquisition of a new polar functional group increases the water solubility of the organic chemical.

Examples of hydrolysis include the following (Valentine 1986):

an alkyl halide

an ester an alcohol + a carboxylic acid

an amide a carboxylic acid + an amine

a nitrile a carboxylic acid+ ammonia

The hydrolysis of organic chemicals in water is generally considered first-order with respect to the organic chemical's concentration; thus, the rate of hydrolysis can be calculated with the following equation (Dragun 1988b):

2.303 t log

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