Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

16.4: How Temperature Influences Solubility

  • Page ID
  • Nuclear power plants require large amounts of water to generate steam for the turbines and to cool the equipment. They will usually be situated near bodies of water to use that water as a coolant, returning the warmer water back to the lake or river. This increases the overall temperature of the water, which lowers the quantity of dissolved oxygen, affecting the survival of fish and other organisms.

    How Temperature Influences Solubility

    The solubility of a substance is the amount of that substance that is required to form a saturated solution in a given amount of solvent at a specified temperature. Solubility is often measured as the grams of solute per \(100 \: \text{g}\) of solvent. The solubility of sodium chloride in water is \(36.0 \: \text{g}\) per \(100 \: \text{g}\) water at \(20^\text{o} \text{C}\). The temperature must be specified because solubility varies with temperature. For gases, the pressure must also be specified. Solubility is specific for a particular solvent. We will consider solubility of material in water as solvent.

    The solubility of the majority of solid substances increases as the temperature increases. However, the effect is difficult to predict and varies widely from one solute to another. The temperature dependence of solubility can be visualized with the help of a solubility curve, a graph of the solubility vs. temperature (see figure below).

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Solubility curves for several compounds.

    Notice how the temperature dependence of \(\ce{NaCl}\) is fairly flat, meaning that an increase in temperature has relatively little effect on the solubility of \(\ce{NaCl}\). The curve for \(\ce{KNO_3}\), on the other hand, is very steep and so an increase in temperature dramatically increases the solubility of \(\ce{KNO_3}\).

    Several substances - \(\ce{HCl}\), \(\ce{NH_3}\), and \(\ce{SO_2}\) - have solubility that decreases as temperature increases. They are all gases at standard pressure. When a solvent with a gas dissolved in it is heated, the kinetic energy of both the solvent and solute increase. As the kinetic energy of the gaseous solute increases, its molecules have a greater tendency to escape the attraction of the solvent molecules and return to the gas phase. Therefore, the solubility of a gas decreases as the temperature increases.

    Solubility curves can be used to determine if a given solution is saturated or unsaturated. Suppose that \(80 \: \text{g}\) of \(\ce{KNO_3}\) is added to \(100 \: \text{g}\) of water at \(30^\text{o} \text{C}\). According to the solubility curve, approximately \(48 \: \text{g}\) of \(\ce{KNO_3}\) will dissolve at \(30^\text{o} \text{C}\). This means that the solution will be saturated since \(48 \: \text{g}\) is less than \(80 \: \text{g}\). We can also determine that there will be \(80 - 48 = 32 \: \text{g}\) of undissolved \(\ce{KNO_3}\) remaining at the bottom of the container. Now suppose that this saturated solution is heated to \(60^\text{o} \text{C}\). According to the curve, the solubility of \(\ce{KNO_3}\) at \(60^\text{o} \text{C}\) is about \(107 \: \text{g}\). Now the solution is unsaturated since it contains only the original \(80 \: \text{g}\) of dissolved solute. Now suppose the solution is cooled all the way down to \(0^\text{o} \text{C}\). The solubility at \(0^\text{o} \text{C}\) is about \(14 \: \text{g}\), meaning that \(80 - 14 = 66 \: \text{g}\) of the \(\ce{KNO_3}\) will recrystallize.


    • The solubility of a solid in water increases with an increase in temperature.
    • Gas solubility decreases as the temperature increases.

    Contributors and Attributions

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