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Chemistry LibreTexts

3.1: Some Basic Definitions

  • Page ID
    221452
  • Learning Objective

    • Learn some terminology involving solutions.
    • Recognize which terminology is qualitative and which terminology is quantitative.
    • Explain why certain substances dissolve in other substances.

    The major component of a solution is called the solvent. The minor component of a solution is called the solute. "Major" and "minor" indicate which component has the greater or lesser presence by mass or moles, respectively. Sometimes this becomes confusing, especially when considering substances with very different molar masses. We will confine the discussion here to solutions for which the major component and the minor component are obvious.

    Solutions exist for every possible phase of the solute and the solvent. Salt water, for example, is a solution of solid NaCl in liquid water; soda water is a solution of gaseous CO2 in liquid water, while air is a solution of a gaseous solute (O2) in a gaseous solvent (N2). In all cases, however, the overall phase of the solution is the same phase as the solvent.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\): Sugar Water

    A solution is made by dissolving 1.00 g of sucrose (C12H22O11) in 100.0 g of liquid water. Identify the solvent and solute in the resulting solution.

    Solution

    Either by mass or by moles, the obvious minor component is sucrose, so it is the solute. Water—the majority component—is the solvent. The fact that the resulting solution is the same phase as water also suggests that water is the solvent.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    A solution is made by dissolving 3.33 g of HCl(g) in 40.0 g of liquid methyl alcohol (CH3OH). Identify the solvent and solute in the resulting solution.

    Answer

    solute: HCl(g); solvent: CH3OH

    One important concept of solutions is in defining how much solute is dissolved in a given amount of solvent. This concept is called concentration. Various words are used to describe the relative amounts of solute. Dilute describes a solution that has very little solute, while concentrated describes a solution that has a lot of solute. One problem is that these terms are qualitative; they describe more or less but not exactly how much.

    It should be obvious that some solutes dissolve in certain solvents but not others. NaCl, for example, dissolves in water but not in vegetable oil. Beeswax dissolves in liquid hexane but not water. What is it that makes a solute soluble in some solvents but not others?

    The answer is intermolecular interactions. The intermolecular interactions include London dispersion forces, dipole-dipole interactions, hydrogen bonding, and ion-dipole. From experimental studies, it has been determined that if molecules of a solute experience the same intermolecular forces that the solvent does, the solute will likely dissolve in that solvent. So, NaCl—a very polar substance because it is composed of ions—dissolves in water, which is very polar, but not in oil, which is generally nonpolar. Nonpolar wax dissolves in nonpolar hexane but not in polar water. This concept leads to the general rule that "like dissolves like" for predicting whether a solute is soluble in a given solvent. However, this is a general rule, not an absolute statement, so it must be applied with care.

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\): Polar and Nonpolar Solvents

    Would I2 be more soluble in CCl4 or H2O? Explain your answer.

    Solution

    I2 is nonpolar. Of the two solvents, CCl4 is nonpolar and H2O is polar, so I2 would be expected to be more soluble in CCl4.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    Would C3H7OH be more soluble in CCl4 or H2O? Explain your answer.

    Answer

    H2O because both experience hydrogen bonding

    Summary

    • Solutions are composed of a solvent (major component) and a solute (minor component).
    • Concentration is the expression of the amount of solute in a given amount of solvent and can be described by several qualitative terms.
    • Solubility is a specific amount of solute that can dissolve in a given amount of solvent.
    • "Like dissolves like" is a useful rule for deciding if a solute will be soluble in a solvent.