To ensure that you understand the material in this chapter, you should review the meanings of the bold terms in the following summary and ask yourself how they relate to the topics in the chapter.
A solution is a homogeneous mixture. The major component is the solvent, while the minor component is the solute. Solutions can have any phase; for example, an alloy is a solid solution. Solutes are soluble or insoluble, meaning they dissolve or do not dissolve in a particular solvent. The terms miscible and immiscible, instead of soluble and insoluble, are used for liquid solutes and solvents. The statement like dissolves like is a useful guide to predicting whether a solute will dissolve in a given solvent.
The amount of solute in a solution is represented by the concentration of the solution. The maximum amount of solute that will dissolve in a given amount of solvent is called the solubility of the solute. Such solutions are saturated. Solutions that have less than the maximum amount are unsaturated. Most solutions are unsaturated, and there are various ways of stating their concentrations. Mass/mass percent, volume/volume percent, and mass/volume percent indicate the percentage of the overall solution that is solute. Parts per million (ppm) and parts per billion (ppb) are used to describe very small concentrations of a solute. Molarity, defined as the number of moles of solute per liter of solution, is a common concentration unit in the chemistry laboratory. Equivalents express concentrations in terms of moles of charge on ions. When a solution is diluted, we use the fact that the amount of solute remains constant to be able to determine the volume or concentration of the final diluted solution.
Dissolving occurs by solvation, the process in which particles of a solvent surround the individual particles of a solute, separating them to make a solution. For water solutions, the word hydration is used. If the solute is molecular, it dissolves into individual molecules. If the solute is ionic, the individual ions separate from each other, forming a solution that conducts electricity. Such solutions are called electrolytes. If the dissociation of ions is complete, the solution is a strong electrolyte. If the dissociation is only partial, the solution is a weak electrolyte. Solutions of molecules do not conduct electricity and are called nonelectrolytes.
Solutions have properties that differ from those of the pure solvent. Some of these are colligative properties, which are due to the number of solute particles dissolved, not the chemical identity of the solute. Colligative properties include vapor pressure depression, boiling point elevation, freezing point depression, and osmotic pressure. Osmotic pressure is particularly important in biological systems. It is caused by osmosis, the passage of solvents through certain membranes like cell walls. The osmolarity of a solution is the product of a solution’s molarity and the number of particles a solute separates into when it dissolves. Osmosis can be reversed by the application of pressure; this reverse osmosis is used to make fresh water from saltwater in some parts of the world. Because of osmosis, red blood cells placed in hypotonic or hypertonic solutions lose function through either hemolysis or crenation. If they are placed in isotonic solutions, however, the cells are unaffected because osmotic pressure is equal on either side of the cell membrane.