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13.4: Solutions of Gases in Water

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    Learning Objectives

    • Predict that the solubility of a gas decreases with an increase in temperature.

    In an earlier module of this chapter, the effect of intermolecular attractive forces on solution formation was discussed. The chemical structures of the solute and solvent dictate the types of forces possible and, consequently, are important factors in determining solubility. For example, under similar conditions, the water solubility of oxygen is approximately three times greater than that of helium, but 100 times less than the solubility of chloromethane, CHCl3. Considering the role of the solvent’s chemical structure, note that the solubility of oxygen in the liquid hydrocarbon hexane, C6H14, is approximately 20 times greater than it is in water.

    Other factors also affect the solubility of a given substance in a given solvent. Temperature is one such factor, with gas solubility typically decreasing as temperature increases (Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)). This is one of the major impacts resulting from the thermal pollution of natural bodies of water.

    <div data-mt-source="1"&quot;&quot;" style="width: 449px; height: 469px;" width="449px" height="469px" src="/@api/deki/files/59218/CNX_Chem_11_03_gasdissolv.jpg">
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): The solubilities of these gases in water decrease as the temperature increases. All solubilities were measured with a constant pressure of 101.3 kPa (1 atm) of gas above the solutions.

    When the temperature of a river, lake, or stream is raised abnormally high, usually due to the discharge of hot water from some industrial process, the solubility of oxygen in the water is decreased. Decreased levels of dissolved oxygen may have serious consequences for the health of the water’s ecosystems and, in severe cases, can result in large-scale fish kills (Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\)).

    <div data-mt-source="1"&quot;&quot;" style="width: 741px; height: 257px;" width="741px" height="257px" src="/@api/deki/files/59220/CNX_Chem_11_03_O2dissolv.1.jpg">
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): (a) The small bubbles of air in this glass of chilled water formed when the water warmed to room temperature and the solubility of its dissolved air decreased. (b) The decreased solubility of oxygen in natural waters subjected to thermal pollution can result in large-scale fish kills. (credit a: modification of work by Liz West; credit b: modification of work by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

    The solubility of a gaseous solute is also affected by the partial pressure of solute in the gas to which the solution is exposed. Gas solubility increases as the pressure of the gas increases. Carbonated beverages provide a nice illustration of this relationship. The carbonation process involves exposing the beverage to a relatively high pressure of carbon dioxide gas and then sealing the beverage container, thus saturating the beverage with CO2 at this pressure. When the beverage container is opened, a familiar hiss is heard as the carbon dioxide gas pressure is released, and some of the dissolved carbon dioxide is typically seen leaving solution in the form of small bubbles (Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\)). At this point, the beverage is supersaturated with carbon dioxide and, with time, the dissolved carbon dioxide concentration will decrease to its equilibrium value and the beverage will become “flat.”

    A dark brown liquid is shown in a clear, colorless container. A thick layer of beige bubbles appear at the surface of the liquid. In the liquid, thirteen small clusters of single black spheres with two red spheres attached to the left and right are shown. Red spheres represent oxygen atoms and black represent carbon atoms. Seven white arrows point upward in the container from these clusters to the bubble layer at the top of the liquid.
    Figure 1\(\PageIndex{3}\): Opening the bottle of carbonated beverage reduces the pressure of the gaseous carbon dioxide above the beverage. The solubility of CO2 is thus lowered, and some dissolved carbon dioxide may be seen leaving the solution as small gas bubbles. (credit: modification of work by Derrick Coetzee)


    The dissolution in a liquid, also known as fizz usually involves carbon dioxide under high pressure. When the pressure is reduced, the carbon dioxide is released from the solution as small bubbles, which causes the solution to become effervescent, or fizzy. A common example is the dissolving of carbon dioxide in water, resulting in carbonated water.

    Carbon dioxide is weakly soluble in water, therefore it separates into a gas when the pressure is released. This process is generally represented by the following reaction, where a pressurized dilute solution of carbonic acid in water releases gaseous carbon dioxide at decompression:

    \[H_2CO_{3(aq)} → H_2O_{(l)} + CO_{2(g)}\]

    In simple terms, it is the result of the chemical reaction occurring in the liquid which produces a gaseous product.

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    13.4: Solutions of Gases in Water is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.