A solution is a homogeneous mixture in which substances present in lesser amounts, called solutes, are dispersed uniformly throughout the substance in the greater amount, the solvent. An aqueous solution is a solution in which the solvent is water, whereas in a nonaqueous solution, the solvent is a substance other than water. Familiar examples of nonaqueous solvents are ethyl acetate, used in nail polish removers, and turpentine, used to clean paint brushes. In this chapter, we focus on reactions that occur in aqueous solution.
There are many reasons for carrying out reactions in solution. For a chemical reaction to occur, individual atoms, molecules, or ions must collide, and collisions between two solids, which are not dispersed at the atomic, molecular, or ionic level, do not occur at a significant rate. In addition, when the amount of a substance required for a reaction is so small that it cannot be weighed accurately, using a solution of that substance, in which the solute is dispersed in a much larger mass of solvent, enables chemists to measure its quantity with great precision. Chemists can also more effectively control the amount of heat consumed or produced in a reaction when the reaction occurs in solution, and sometimes the nature of the reaction itself can be controlled by the choice of solvent.
This chapter introduces techniques for preparing and analyzing aqueous solutions, for balancing equations that describe reactions in solution, and for solving problems using solution stoichiometry. By the time you complete this chapter, you will know enough about aqueous solutions to explain what causes acid rain, why acid rain is harmful, and how a Breathalyzer measures alcohol levels. You will also understand the chemistry of photographic development, be able to explain why rhubarb leaves are toxic, and learn about a possible chemical reason for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.