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Solutes Solvents and Solutions

If you have ever added sugar to your coffee, you have been in the presence of a solvent! As the sugar dissolves in the coffee, a solution is formed. So, what do solvents, solutes, and solutions mean? Discover more by reading on!

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Solutes Solvents and Solutions

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If you have ever added sugar to your coffee, you have been in the presence of a solvent! As the sugar dissolves in the coffee, a solution is formed. So, what do solvents, solutes, and solutions mean? Discover more by reading on!

  • First, we will look at the definition of solvent and some examples.
  • Then, we will explore the definition of solute and solution.
  • After, we will talk about the difference between solute and solution.

Solvent: Definition

Let's start with the definition of a solvent.

The term solvent is defined as a substance that dissolves other substances (solutes). In a solution, the solvent is the substance present in the highest amount.

For example, if you added some cocoa powder to a glass of milk and stirred, the cocoa powder would dissolve in the solvent, which is milk in this case!

$$ \text{Solute (Cocoa powder) + Solvent (Milk) = Solution (Chocolate milk) } $$

Now, a solvent's ability to dissolve another substance depends on its molecular structure. The three types of molecular structures of solvents are polar protic solvents, dipolar aprotic solvents, and non-polar solvents.

Polar protic solvents consist of a molecule containing a polar OH group and a non-polar tail. Its structure is represented by the formula R-OH. Some common polar protic solvents include water (H2O), methanol (CH3OH), Ethanol (CH3CH2OH), and acetic acid (CH3COOH).

  • Only polar compounds are soluble in polar protic solvents. H2O however, can dissolve nonpolar substances too!

Dipolar aprotic solvents are usually molecules with a large bond dipole moment. They do not have an, OH, group. Acetone ((CH3)2C=O) is a common example of a dipolar aprotic solvent.

Non-polar solvents are immiscible in water, and they are considered lipophilic. In other words, they dissolve non-polar substances like oils and fats. Examples of non-polar solvents include Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), diethyl ether (CH3CH2OCH2CH3), and benzene (C6H6).

Solvent: Examples

While water (H2O) is the most important inorganic solvent, there are many other solvents that can be used to dissolve solutes and form solutions. Some examples of inorganic solvents are concentrated sulfuric acid (H2SO4), and liquid ammonia (NH3).

For instance, zinc carbonate (ZnCO3) can be dissolved in sulfuric acid (H2SO4) to form zinc sulfate (ZnSO4), water (H2O) and Carbon dioxide (CO2) as products (figure 1)!

Solutes and Solutions  Chemical reaction between zinc carbonate and sulfuric acid Solvent Examples StudySmarterFigure 1. Chemical reaction between zinc carbonate and sulfuric acid, Isadora Santos - StudySmarter Originals.

What about organic solvents? Organic solvents can be oxygenated, hydrocarbon, or halogenated solvents. As the name suggests, oxygenated solvents are that contain oxygen. These solvents have many applications including dissolving paints! Examples of oxygenated solvents are alcohols, ketones, and esters.

Hydrocarbon solvents contain only hydrogen and carbon atoms. Hexane, gasoline, and kerosene are examples of hydrocarbon solvents.

Halogenated solvents are organic solvents that have halogen atoms present. Halogens atoms are those found in group 17 on the Periodic Table, such as chlorine (Cl), fluorine (F), bromine (Br), and iodine (I). Examples include trichloroethylene (ClCH-CCl2), chloroform (CHCl3), tetrafluoromethane (CF4), bromomethane (CH2Br), and iodoethane (C2H5I)

The term aqueous solution refers to solutions containing water as the solvent!

Solute: Definition

Now, let's dive into solutes. The definition of solute is shown below.

A solute is referred to as a substance that gets dissolved in the solvent to form a solution. Solutes are present in smaller amounts compared to solvents.

Think about air, for example. Air is a gaseous solution in which Nitrogen is the solvent and oxygen and all the other gases are the solutes! Another example is carbonated water. In carbonated water, carbon dioxide (CO2) gas is the solute and H2O is the solvent.

Solubility

When dealing with solutes and solvents, there is a very important term that you need to be familiar with: Solubility. To be soluble, the attractive forces that are formed between solute and solvent need to be comparable to those bonds broken in the solute and in the solvent.

Solubility measures how much solute will dissolve in a specific amount of solvent.

Solubility depends on three things: type of solute and solvent, temperature, and pressure (for gases).

  • The solutes that dissolve in polar solvents are polar molecules, while the solutes that dissolve in non-polar solvents are non-polar molecules. Like dissolves like.
  • As temperature increases, solids become more soluble and gases become less soluble. When added to hot water, sugar, for example, dissolves much better than when added to cold water!
  • Gases are more soluble at higher pressures.

If you needed to clean a paint brush with oil paint on it, which type of solvent would you use? Substances that come from oil are non-polar. Therefore, you would have to use a non-polar solvent like kerosene to clean your paint brush!

Solution: Definition

Now that we know that solutes dissolve in solvents to make solutions, let's look at the definition of a solution.

$$ \text{Solute + Solvent = Solution } $$

A solution is a homogenous mixture formed from dissolving a solute in a solvent.

A homogenous mixture is a type of mixture that is uniform throughout. Solutions are usually clear (see-through), and do not separate on standing.

The process of formation a solution occurs in three steps (figure 2). First, the attractive forces of the solute particle break, causing the separation of solute particles. Then, the separation of solvent particle occurs in the same way. Lastly, attractive forces are formed between the solute and solvent particles.

Now, let's explore the different types of solution that can be formed. Solid-liquids solutions are the most common type of solution. Here, a solid is dissolved in a liquid.

Although it might sound strange, solid-solid solutions also exist. These solutions can be formed when a solid gets dissolved in another solid. Alloys are the best example of solid-solid solutions.

  • An alloy is a combination of two one more metals, or metals with nonmetallic elements. Steel is an alloy of iron with a very small amount of carbon.

Gas-liquid solutions are solutions resulting from a gas dissolving in a liquid. Carbonated soda is an example of a gas-liquid solution.

When a gas dissolves in another gas, gas-gas solutions are formed. Air is an example of gas-gas solution!

Lastly, we have liquid-liquid solutions. These solutions are formed when a liquid is dissolved in another liquid.

Solute and Solution: Examples

Depending on the amount of solute added to a solvent, we can have either saturated, unsaturated, or supersaturated solutions. So, let's talk about what these solutions are and look at some examples!

A saturated solution is a solution in which no more solute can be dissolved in it. In other words, it is a solution where the maximum amount of solute has dissolved in the solvent. For example, if you added sodium chloride (NaCl) to a glass of water until no more of the salt dissolves in the water, you have a saturated solution.

On the other hand, we have unsaturated solutions. An unsaturated solution is a solution that has the ability to dissolve more solute. Unsaturated solutions contain less than the maximum amount of solute possible. So, you added more solute to it, it would dissolve.

Now, if a solution holds more solute than is normally possible, it becomes a supersaturated solution. This type of solution usually forms from a saturated solution when heated to high temperatures. If all the material in the saturated solution is dissolved by heating and allowed to cool it will often remain a homogenous solution; no precipitate will form. If a crystal of the pure solute is added to the cooled homogenous supersaturated solution a precipitate of this solute will form. This technique is often used in an Organic Chemistry lab to obtain pure compounds.

Interested in learning more about these types of solutions? Browse through the explanation "Unsaturated, Saturated, and Supersaturated"!

Molarity

When mixing a solution, there are two main things chemists need to know: the amount of solute and solvent to use, and the Concentration of the solution.

Solution Concentration is defined as the amount of solute dissolved in the solvent.

To calculate concentration, we can use the formula for Molarity (M) as concentration is often measured in units of Molarity. The equation for Molarity is as follows:

$$Molarity\,(M\,or\,mol/L)= \frac{moles\,of\,solute\,(mol)}{liters\,of,solution\,(L)}$$

Find the molarity of a solution prepared with 45.6 grams of NaNO3 and 0.250 L of H2O?

First, we need to convert grams of NaNO3 to moles.

$$ \text{45.6 g NaNO}_{3}\text{ }\times \frac{\text{1 mol NaNO}_{3}}{\text{85.01 g NaNO}_{3}} = \text{0.536 mol NaNO}_{3} $$

Now that we know the moles of NaNO3, we can plug everything into the equation for molarity.

$$ \text{Molarity (M or mol/L) = }\frac{\text{moles of solute (mol)}}{\text{liters of solution (L)}} = \frac{\text{0.536 moles of NaNO}_{3}}{\text{0.250 L solution}} = \text{2.14 M} $$

Difference between Solute and Solution

To finish off, let's look at the differences difference between solvent, solute, and solution.

Solute
Solvent
Solution
Solutes are substances that dissolve in solvents to form a solution. Solvents are substances that dissolve solutes. Solutions are homogenous mixtures created from two or more substances.
Solutes are present is lesser amount than solvents. Solvents are present in higher amounts compared to solutes.
Solutes can be in the solid, liquid, or gas state. Liquid solvents are the most common, but gases and solids can also be used.Solutions can be in the solid, liquid, or gas state.

Now, I hope that you feel more confident in your understanding of solutes and solutions!

Solutes and Solutions - Key takeaways

  • The term solvent is defined as a substance that dissolves other substances (solutes). In a solution, the solvent is the substance present in the highest amount.

  • A solute is referred to as a substance that gets dissolved in the solvent to form a solution. Solutes are present in smaller amounts compared to solvents.

  • Solubility measures how much solute will dissolve in a specific amount of solvent.
  • A solution is a homogenous mixture formed by dissolving a solute in a solvent.

References

  1. Brown, M. (2021). Everything you need to ace biology in one big fat notebook : the complete high school study guide. Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
  2. David, M., Howe, E., & Scott, S. (2015). Head-Start to A-level Chemistry. Cordination Group Publications (Cgp) Ltd.
  3. Malone, L. J., & Dolter, T. O. (2010). Basic concepts of chemistry. Wiley.
  4. N Saunders, Kat Day, Iain Brand, Claybourne, A., Scott, G., & Smithsonian Books (Publisher. (2020). Supersimple chemistry : the ultimate bite-size study guide. Dk Publishing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Solutes Solvents and Solutions

A solute is a substance that gets dissolved in a solvent to make a solution. A solution is a substance formed from the combination of solute and solvent. 

Examples of solutes include COdissolved in water, oxygen gas dissolved in nitrogen gas, sugar dissolved in water, and alcohol dissolved in water. 

To find the mass of solute in solution, we need to solve for moles of solute using the equation for molarity and then convert it into grams.  

To find solution volume, we need to multiply moles of solute by (1 liter/number of moles per liter).

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

The term ____ is defined as a a substance that dissolves other substances.

In a solution, the solvent is the substance present in the ____  amount. 

_______ solvents consists of a molecule containing a polar OH group and a non-polar tail.

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