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16.2: Rate of Dissolving

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  • Many people enjoy a cold glass of ice tea on a hot summer day. Some like it unsweetened, while others like to put sugar in it. How fast the sugar dissolved depends on several factors: how much sugar was put in the tea and how cold it is. You usually have to stir the tea for a while to get all the sugar dissolved.

    Rate of Dissolving

    We know that the dissolving of a solid by water depends upon the collisions that occur between the solvent molecules and the particles in the solid crystal. Anything that can be done to increase the frequency of those collisions and/or to give those collisions more energy will increase the rate of dissolving. Imagine that you were trying to dissolve some sugar in a glassful of tea. A packet of granulated sugar would dissolve faster than a cube of sugar. The rate of dissolving would be increased by stirring, or agitating the solution. Finally, the sugar would dissolve faster in hot tea than it would in cold tea.

    Surface Area

    The rate at which a solute dissolves depends upon the size of the solute particles. Dissolving is a surface phenomenon since it depends on solvent molecules colliding with the outer surface of the solute. A given quantity of solute dissolves faster when it is ground into small particles than if it is i n the form of a large chunk because more surface area is exposed. The packet of granulated sugar exposes far more surface area to the solvent and dissolves more quickly than the sugar cube.

    Agitation of the Solution

    Dissolving sugar in water will occur more quickly if the water is stirred. The stirring allows fresh solvent molecules to continually be in contact with the solute. If it is not stirred, then the water right at the surface of the solute becomes saturated with dissolved sugar molecules, meaning that it is more difficult for additional solute to dissolve. The sugar cube would eventually dissolve because random motions of the water molecules would bring enough fresh solvent into contact with the sugar, but the process would take much longer. It is important to realize that neither stirring nor breaking up a solute affect the overall amount of solute that dissolves. It only affects the rate of dissolving.


    Heating up the solvent gives the molecules more kinetic energy. The more rapid motion means that the solvent molecules collide with the solute with greater frequency and the collisions occur with more force. Both factors increase the rate at which the solute dissolves. As we will see in the next section, a temperature change not only affects the rate of dissolving, but also affects the amount of solute that dissolves.


    • The rate of dissolving is influenced by surface area, stirring, and temperature.


    • CK-12 Foundation by Sharon Bewick, Richard Parsons, Therese Forsythe, Shonna Robinson, and Jean Dupon.