A hydrotrope is a compound that solubilises hydrophobic compounds in aqueous solutions. Typically, hydrotropes consist of a hydrophilic part and a hydrophobic part (like surfactants) but the hydrophobic part is generally too small to cause spontaneous self-aggregation.
Hydrotropes do not have a critical concentration above which self-aggregation 'suddenly' starts to occur (as found for micelle- and vesicle-forming surfactants, which have a critical micelle concentration or cmc and a critical vesicle concentration or cvc, respectively). Instead, some hydrotropes aggregate in a step-wise self-aggregation process, gradually increasing aggregation size. However, many hydrotropes do not seem to self-aggregate at all, unless a solubilisate has been added. Hydrotropes are in use industrially. Hydrotropes are used in detergent formulations to allow more concentrated formulations of surfactants. Examples of hydrotropes include sodium p-toluenesulfonate and sodium xylene sulfonate.

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