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constituent of a solution that acts as a dissolving agent. In solutions of solids or gases in a liquid, the liquid is the solvent. In all other solutions (i.e., liquids in liquids or solids in solids) the constituent that is present in larger quantity is considered the solvent. The most familiar and widely used solvent is water. Other compounds valuable as solvents because they dissolve materials that are insoluble or nearly insoluble in water are acetone, alcohol, benzene (or benzol), carbon disulfide, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, ether, ethyl acetate, furfural, gasoline, toluene, turpentine, and xylene (or xylol). Solvents are often organic compounds. They may be divided into polar and nonpolar types. Polar solvents, of which water is an example, have molecules whose electric charges are unequally distributed, leaving one end of each molecule more positive than the other. Nonpolar solvents, of which carbon tetrachloride is an example, have molecules whose electric charges are equally distributed.
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A liquid that dissolves and cleans surface of other materials.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a chemical compound or mixture that dissolves various substances, that is, it combines with a substance to form a homogeneous system of variable composition, which is made up of two or more components. For liquid-gas and liquid-solid systems the solvent is considered a liquid component, whereas for liquid-liquid systems it is an excess component.

In principle, any substance may be a solvent for any other substance. In practice, however, only those substances meeting specific requirements are termed solvents. For example, solvents should exhibit good dissolving action and be sufficiently inert chemically in relation to the dissolved substance and the apparatus. Industrial solvents should be easily accessible and inexpensive. Solvents must meet the specific needs of a particular industry. For example, extraction requires solvents that exhibit selective dissolving action, whereas matched solvents are often used in other processes to improve mutual solubility.

A chemical classification dividing all solvents into inorganic and organic types is most commonly used. The most widely used inorganic solvent for numerous inorganic and organic compounds is water. Other inorganic solvents are liquid ammonia (for alkali metals, phosphorus, sulfur, salts, amines, and other substances), liquid sulfur dioxide (for many organic and inorganic compounds, used particularly in industry for refining petroleum products), and fused metals and salts. The numerous organic solvents that are highly valuable include petroleum solvents (including hydrocarbons and their halogen derivatives), alcohols, ethers, esters, ketones, and nitro compounds. Organic solvents are widely used in the manufacture of plastics, paints, varnishes, synthetic fibers, resins, and adhesives (in the rubber industry). They are also used in the extraction of vegetable fats, in dry cleaning, in the purification of chemical compounds through recrystallization, in the chromatographic separation of substances, and in the preparation of a specific medium.

It is also possible to classify solvents on the basis of boiling point, relative evaporation rate, and polarity. Hence there are low-boiling (ethyl alcohol, methyl acetate) and high-boiling (xylene) solvents, rapidly evaporating and slowly evaporating solvents (the evaporation rate of butyl acetate is often used as a standard), and nonpolar (hydrocarbons, carbon disulfide) and polar (water, alcohols, acetone) solvents. The specifications for solvents usually contain data on the flash point, the limits for explosive concentrations of vapor in air, the vapor pressure at standard temperatures, and solvent power. The data are used to determine for what substances a given solvent may be used (for dissolving oils and fats, resins, dyes, or natural and synthetic rubbers).

Other widely used solvents are mixtures of various substances, for example, benzines, petroleum ether, and alcohol and ether mixtures. In addition, plasticizers are often included in the solvent category; they improve the mechanical and physical properties of rubbers, natural resins, polyamides, and many other macromolecular compounds.

Nearly all organic solvents are physiologically active. Large concentrations of certain ones—aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorine derivatives, amines, or ketones—may cause severe poisoning. Some solvents cause various skin diseases (dermatitises). Safety precautions have been developed for many industrial organic solvents to protect workers from fire and from harmful physiological effects.


Spravochnik khimika, 2nd ed., vol. 6. Leningrad, 1967. Pages 118–54.
Nevodnye rastvoriteli. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from English.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


That part of a solution that is present in the largest amount, or the compound that is normally liquid in the pure state (as for solutions of solids or gases in liquids).
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A liquid used to dissolve a solid (such as a paint resin) so that it is brushable; usually volatile; evaporates from the paint film after application; a thinner.

thinner, dilutent, solvent

A volatile liquid used to dilute and lower the viscosity of paints, adhesives, etc.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. (of a substance, esp a liquid) capable of dissolving another substance
2. a liquid capable of dissolving another substance
3. the component of a solution that does not change its state in forming the solution or the component that is present in excess
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Il ne s'agit ni plus ni moins que de proceder au retrait de ce produit hautement dangereux pour la sante des individus qui sont en contact direct et quotidien avec ce solvant, une procedure qui est tres recommandee par les autorites sanitaires de plusieurs pays, comme il serait souhaitable de proceder au controle du marche marocain en ce qui concerne le perchloroethylene .Par ailleurs et dans le but d'informer et de sensibiliser celles et ceux qui sont en contact direct avec ce produit, il serait tout indique que les travailleurs qui sont en contact direct avec ce solvant soient au courant des risques majeurs auxquels ils sont exposes et des repercussions de son utilisation sur leur sante.
Par ailleurs il faut obligatoirement informer les travailleurs qui sont en contact direct avec ce solvant afin qu'ils soient au courant des risques majeurs auxquels ils sont exposes et des repercussions de son utilisation sur leur sante.
L'Algerie exporte essentiellement des produits energetiques et miniers derives dont les solvants, l'ammoniac, les engrais, le phosphate, le methanol, l'helium.
Panorama de l'utilisation des solvants en France fin 2004.
Systemic sclerosis and occupational exposure to solvents (Sclerodermie et exposition professionnelle aux solvants organiques).
La distillation est une des operations importantes de l'industrie des procedes chimiques et est largement utilisee pour purifier des produits ou recuperer des solvants, ou encore pour separer les reactifs interessants dans les courants de residus.
Vivascience offers the following types of Minisart syringe filters: Name Membrane Application Minisart-N PES Sterile filtration Particle removal Minisart-SRP PTFE Contaminant removal from organic solvants Sterile venting Minisart-RC Regenerated cellulose Contaminant removal from aqueous solvants Minisart-HY PTFE Sterile venting Minisart-Plus Pre-filter w/ Sterile filtration of cellulose acetate difficult-to-filter aqueous solutions Minisart-GF Glass-fiber Pre-filtration/Clarification Particle removal
(Nettoyage, desinfection et hygiene dans les bio-industries - Leveau, Jean-Yves & Bouix, Marielle - Editions Lavoisier, Collection STAA, September 1999, 548 p, Euro 121.20)*Pollution localisee des sols et des sous-sols par les hydrocarbures et par les solvants chlores (Localised pollution of soils and subsoils by hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents): a report on one of the most common forms of soil and subsoil pollution, involving hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents.
Selon lui, [beaucoup moins que] ils peuvent contenir des solvants, des conservateurs ou des metaux lourds a l'origine de maux de tete, d'irritations oculaires et nasales et ils peuvent meme etre cancerigenes [beaucoup plus grand que].
Reticulocytes and solvants: an epidemiological study.