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Chemistry LibreTexts

13.1: Types of Solutions - Some Terminology

  • Page ID
    24253
  • Learning Objectives

    • To understand how enthalpy and entropy changes affect solution formation.
    • To use the magnitude of the changes in both enthalpy and entropy to predict whether a given solute–solvent combination will spontaneously form a solution.

    In all solutions, whether gaseous, liquid, or solid, the substance present in the greatest amount is the solvent, and the substance or substances present in lesser amounts are the solute(s). The solute does not have to be in the same physical state as the solvent, but the physical state of the solvent usually determines the state of the solution. As long as the solute and solvent combine to give a homogeneous solution, the solute is said to be soluble in the solvent. Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) lists some common examples of gaseous, liquid, and solid solutions and identifies the physical states of the solute and solvent in each.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Types of Solutions
    Solution Solute Solvent Examples
    gas gas gas air, natural gas
    liquid gas liquid seltzer water (\(\ce{CO2}\) gas in water)
    liquid liquid liquid alcoholic beverage (ethanol in water), gasoline
    liquid solid liquid tea, salt water
    solid gas solid \(\ce{H2}\) in \(\ce{Pd}\) (used for \(\ce{H2}\) storage)
    solid solid liquid mercury in silver or gold (amalgam often used in dentistry)

    The formation of a solution from a solute and a solvent is a physical process, not a chemical one. That is, both solute and solvent can be recovered in chemically unchanged forms using appropriate separation methods. For example, solid zinc nitrate dissolves in water to form an aqueous solution of zinc nitrate:

    \[\ce{Zn(NO3)2 (s) + H2O(l) \rightarrow Zn^{2+} (aq) +2NO^{-}3 (aq)} \nonumber\]

    Because \(\ce{Zn(NO3)2}\) can be recovered easily by evaporating the water, this is a physical process. In contrast, metallic zinc appears to dissolve in aqueous hydrochloric acid. In fact, the two substances undergo a chemical reaction to form an aqueous solution of zinc chloride with evolution of hydrogen gas:

    \[\ce{ Zn (s) + 2H^{+}(aq) + 2Cl^{-} (aq) \rightarrow Zn^{2+} (aq) + 2Cl^{-} (aq) + H_2 (g) } \nonumber\]

    Dissolution of a solute in a solvent to form a solution typically does not involve a chemical transformation and largely consist of breaking intermolecular forces rather than covalent bonds.

    When the solution evaporates, we do not recover metallic zinc, so we cannot say that metallic zinc is soluble in aqueous hydrochloric acid because it is chemically transformed when it dissolves. The dissolution of a solute in a solvent to form a solution does not involve a chemical transformation.

    Mercury Amalgams: Examples of solid Solutions

    An amalgam is an alloy of mercury with another metal. It may be a liquid, a soft paste or a solid, depending upon the proportion of mercury. These alloys are formed through metallic bonding, with the electrostatic attractive force of the conduction electrons working to bind all the positively charged metal ions together into a crystal lattice structure. Almost all metals can form amalgams with mercury including aluminum (Video \(\PageIndex{1}\)), the notable exceptions being iron, platinum, tungsten, and tantalum. Silver-mercury amalgams are important in dentistry, and gold-mercury amalgam is used in the extraction of gold from ore.

    Video \(\PageIndex{1}\): Aluminum dissolving into Mercury.

    Substances that form a single homogeneous phase in all proportions are said to be completely miscible in one another. Ethanol and water are miscible, just as mixtures of gases are miscible. If two substances are essentially insoluble in each other, such as oil and water, they are immiscible. Examples of gaseous solutions that we have already discussed include Earth’s atmosphere.