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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Volatile solvent users can be classified as either experimental, recreational, or habitual (Langa, 1993).
The sample consisted of forty high school students in the metropolitan area of Perth, Western Australia, all of whom were self-reported volatile solvent users.
Individuals were identified as being volatile solvent users from previous research, which examined self-reported substance use among 1,392 students in five high schools (Odgers et al., 1997).
All youth completed the Volatile Solvent Screening Inventory (VSSI), an interview developed by Howard and colleagues (2008) assessing demographic characteristics, medical history, lifetime/annual use of 65 inhalants, other drug use and substance-related problems, current psychiatric symptoms, thoughts of suicide/actual suicide attempts, trauma history, antisocial traits and delinquent behavior.
Responses on the VSSI to nitrous oxide and volatile solvent use items were used to define four mutually exclusive study subsamples of interest: youth with lifetime use of both NO and VS inhalants (NO+VS, N = 103), youth who had used NO but not VS inhalants (NO-only, N = 11), youth who had used VS but not NO inhalants (VS-only, N = 164), and youth who had used neither NO nor VS inhalants (NO/VS nonusers, N = 445).
The model tends to underpredict film thickness for films spun from solutions with an initially high polymer concentration or solutions in which a highly volatile solvent is used; the model tends to overpredict film thickness for films spun from very dilute solutions or solutions in which a low volatility solvent is used.
This makes the HT-12 Series II with scroll pump suitable for use in harsh chemistry environments where corrosive or volatile solvents are frequently used.
This makes them ideal for use in harsh chemistry environments such as high-throughput chemistry and drug discovery where corrosive or volatile solvents are frequently used.
Sized and priced to be a personal evaporator, it uses a combination of directed nitrogen gas and vacuum to rapidly remove even non-volatile solvents like water and SMSO and volatile solvents without bumping.
Studies of volatile solvent users also suggest that helium inhalation can have serious health consequences.
Most helium users (N = 73; 90.1%) reported lifetime use of an additional volatile solvent inhalant in an effort to get high.
Helium users in the present sample evidenced sociodemographic, psychological, and psychiatric characteristics similar to those of adolescent users of volatile solvent inhalants (e.g., Howard et al.