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in chemistry, homogeneous mixturemixture,
in chemistry, a physical combination of two or more pure substances (i.e., elements or compounds). A mixture is distinguished from a compound, which is formed by the chemical combination of two or more pure substances in a fixed, definite proportion.
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 of two or more substances. The dissolving medium is called the solventsolvent,
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
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, and the dissolved material is called the solute. A solution is distinct from a colloidcolloid
[Gr.,=gluelike], a mixture in which one substance is divided into minute particles (called colloidal particles) and dispersed throughout a second substance. The mixture is also called a colloidal system, colloidal solution, or colloidal dispersion.
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 or a suspensionsuspension,
in chemistry, mixture of two substances, one of which is finely divided and dispersed in the other. Common suspensions include sand in water, fine soot or dust in air, and droplets of oil in air. A suspension is different from a colloid or solution.
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In most common solutions, the solvent is a liquid, often water, and the solute may be a solid, gas, or liquid. For example, syrups are solutions of sugar, a solid, in water, a liquid; household ammonia is a solution of ammonia gas in water; and vinegar is a solution of acetic acid, a liquid, in water. When two liquids, e.g., water and ethanol, can be mixed in any proportions, the solvent is commonly considered to be the one present in greater proportion. Some alloysalloy
[O. Fr.,=combine], substance with metallic properties that consists of a metal fused with one or more metals or nonmetals. Alloys may be a homogeneous solid solution, a heterogeneous mixture of tiny crystals, a true chemical compound, or a mixture of these.
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 are solutions of one solid in another, as are many rocks. A mixture of gases, such as air, is usually not thought of as a solution.

Characteristics of Solutions

The solute particles in a solution are generally of molecular size or smaller, much smaller than those in a colloid or a suspension. The solute particles cannot be observed even with an ultramicroscope. They do not settle out from the solvent on standing, and they cannot be separated from the solvent by physical means, such as filtration or centrifugation. On the other hand, a solution differs from a compoundcompound,
in chemistry, a substance composed of atoms of two or more elements in chemical combination, occurring in a fixed, definite proportion and arranged in a fixed, definite structure. A compound is often represented by its chemical formula.
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 in that its components can occur in continuously varying proportions, within certain limits (although within a given solution they are present in the same proportions throughout the solution), while the components of a compound can occur only in certain fixed proportions.

The addition of solute affects the boiling point, freezing point, and vapor pressure of the solution, in general raising the boiling point, depressing the freezing point, and lowering the vapor pressure (see Raoult's lawRaoult's law
[for F. M. Raoult, a French physicist and chemist] states that the addition of solute to a liquid lessens the tendency for the liquid to become a solid or a gas, i.e., reduces the freezing point and the vapor pressure (see solution).
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). A number of substances (acids, bases, and salts) exhibit characteristic behavior in aqueous solution. These substances dissociate in water to form positive and negative ionsion,
atom or group of atoms having a net electric charge. Positive and Negative Electric Charges

A neutral atom or group of atoms becomes an ion by gaining or losing one or more electrons or protons.
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 that enable the solution to conduct electricity. Such solutions are called electrolytic (see electrolyteelectrolyte
, electrical conductor in which current is carried by ions rather than by free electrons (as in a metal). Electrolytes include water solutions of acids, bases, or salts; certain pure liquids; and molten salts.
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The proportion of solute to solvent in a given solution is expressed by the concentrationconcentration,
in chemistry, measure of the relative proportions of two or more quantities in a mixture. The concentration of a solute is very important in studying chemical reactions because it determines how often molecules collide in solution and thus indirectly determines
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 of the solution. Concentrations may be stated in a number of ways, such as giving the amount of solute contained in a given volume of solution or the amount dissolved in a given mass of solvent. A solution having a relatively high concentration is said to be concentrated, and a solution having a low concentration is said to be dilute.

In many solutions the concentration has a maximum limit that depends on various factors, such as temperature, pressure, and the nature of the solvent. The maximum concentration is called the solubility of the solute under those conditions. When a solution contains the maximum amount of solute, it is said to be saturated; if it contains less than that amount, it is unsaturated.

The most obvious factor affecting solubility is the nature of the solvent. Ordinary table salt (sodium chloride) is soluble in water, but only slightly soluble in ethanol, and insoluble in diethyl ether. Temperature is also important in determining solubility. Solids are usually more soluble at higher temperatures; more salt will dissolve in warm water than in an equal amount of cold water. Graphs showing the solubility of different solids as a function of temperature are called solubility curves and are very useful in chemical analysis. Solubility also depends on pressure, especially in the case of gases, which are more soluble at higher pressures.

Under certain conditions a solution may be made to contain more solute than a saturated solution at the same temperature and pressure; such a solution is called supersaturated. If even a single crystal of undissolved solute is added to a supersaturated solution, all the excess solute above the normal solubility concentration will immediately crystallize out of the solution.

Heat of Solution

The addition of some solutes to a solvent will raise the temperature of the solution, while others may lower the temperature and still others will have no noticeable effect. This behavior depends on the heat of solution of the solute in the given solvent. The heat of solution, i.e., the amount of heat given off or absorbed during the process of solution, is equal to the difference between the energy that must be supplied to break up the crystals of the solute and the energy that is released when the solute particles are taken into solution by the solvent (see enthalpyenthalpy
, measure of the heat content of a chemical or physical system; it is a quantity derived from the heat and work relations studied in thermodynamics. As a system changes from one state to another the enthalpy change, ΔH,
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). If the heat of solution is negative (i.e., more energy is required to break up the crystal than is released in forming the solution), then the temperature will decrease; if the heat of solution is positive, the temperature will increase.



a macroscopically homogeneous mixture of two or more substances, or components, that form systems in thermodynamic equilibrium. All the components of a solution exist in a molecularly dispersed state and are uniformly distributed as separate atoms, molecules, or ions or as groups of a relatively small number of the above-mentioned particles. From a thermodynamic viewpoint, solutions are phases of variable composition in which the ratio of the components may vary continuously within certain limits under given external conditions. Solutions may be gaseous or solid, but term “solution” most frequently refers to a liquid solution.

Practically all liquids encountered in nature are solutions. For example, seawater is a solution of a large number of inorganic and organic substances in water, and petroleum is a solution of many components, which are usually organic. Solutions are found widely in industry and daily life.

The simplest components of solutions usually may be separated in pure form, and a solution of permissible composition can be formed by remixing such components. The quantitative ratio of components is determined by their concentrations. The major component is usually called the solvent, and the other components are called solutes. If one of the components is a liquid and the others are gases or solids, the liquid is considered to be the solvent.

The classification of solutions is based on various criteria. Thus, a distinction based on the concentration of the solute is made between concentrated and dilute solutions. The nature of the solvent determines whether a solution is aqueous or nonaqueous (alcoholic and ammonia solutions). Based on the concentration of hydrogen ions, a distinction is made between acid, neutral, and basic solutions.

In accordance with their thermodynamic properties, solutions are divided into certain classes, primarily into ideal and nonideal solutions. In ideal solutions the chemical potential μi, of each component i has a simple logarithmic dependence on its concentration (for example, on the mole fraction xi):

(1) where Solution is the chemical potential of the pure component, which is dependent only on the pressure P and the temperature T, and where R is the gas constant.

For ideal solutions, the enthalpy of mixing of the components is equal to zero, and the entropy of mixing is given by the same formula as for ideal gases. The change in volume upon mixing the components is equal to zero. These three properties of an ideal solution fully characterize it and may be considered as criteria for ideal solutions. Both Raoult’s laws and Henry’s law are satisfied for ideal solutions. It has been found that solutions are ideal only if their components are similar to each other, primarily in regard to geometric configuration and molecular size. Solutions most similar to ideal solutions are mixtures of identical compounds containing different isotopes of the same element.

As a rule, equation (1) holds for ideal solutions in areas of concentration change. The concentrations at which marked deviations from the ideal are first observed in a given solution depend very strongly on the nature of the solution components. Most sufficiently dilute solutions behave as ideal solutions.

Solutions not having the properties of ideal solutions are called nonideal. For these solutions, the relation that holds is analogous to equation (1), but the concentration is replaced by the activity ai = γixi where ai is the activity of component i and γi, is the activity coefficient, which depends both on the concentration of the given component and of the other components and on the pressure and temperature.

Regular solutions form a large class of nonideal solutions. They are characterized by the same entropy of mixing as ideal solutions, but their enthalpy of mixing is nonzero and proportional to the logarithms of the activity coefficients. Athermic solutions form a special class in which the heat of mixing is equal to zero; the activity coefficients are determined only by the entropy term and are independent of the temperature. The theory of such solutions frequently permits the prediction of the properties of nonideal solutions, for example, in the case of nonpolar components with very different molecular volumes. Many solutions of high molecular weight compounds in ordinary solvents are similar to athermic solutions.

At a given temperature and pressure, the dissolution of one component in another usually involves, within some limits, a change in concentration. Solutions in equilibrium with one of the pure components are called saturated solutions, and the concentrations of such solutions are the solubility of the component. The dependence of the solubility on temperature and pressure is represented graphically by a solubility diagram. At concentrations below the solubility of the solute, a solution is unsaturated. If a solution does not contain crystallization nuclei, it may be cooled so that the concentration of the solute becomes greater than the solubility and the solution becomes supersaturated. A series of solution properties of practical importance is related to the change in the pressure of the saturated vapor of the solvent above a solution upon changing the concentration of the solute. Such properties include a lowering of the freezing point and an increase in the boiling point.

The structure of a solution is primarily determined by its components. If the components are similar in chemical structure and molecular size, the structure of the solution, in principle, will not differ from the structure of the pure liquids. Compounds that markedly differ in molecular structure and properties usually interact strongly with each other, leading to the formation of complexes in the solution that cause deviation from the ideal. The energy of formation of these complexes may reach several kJ/mole, indicating the presence of weak chemical interactions in the solution and the formation of some chemical compounds as new components of the solution. The interaction with solvent molecules for many compounds (for example, electrolytes) is accompanied by the opposite phenomenon, namely, dissociation. Upon dissolution in water, salts, acids, and bases partially or completely dissociate into ions, resulting in an increase in the number of different particles in the solution. Dissociation also characterizes other polar solvents. In electrolytic dissociation, the overall electrical neutrality is retained, and a layer of closely related solvent molecules (the solvation shell) forms around each ion. The structure of the solvent is retained in solutions at very low concentrations of the solute. As the concentration of the solute increases, new structures arise. For example, various crystalline hydrate structures arise in aqueous solutions. Large ions destroy the structure of the solvent, resulting in experimentally observed structural nonuniformities. Solutions of macromolecular compounds are characterized by specific features.

The statistical molecular theory of solutions has been developed only for the simplest classes of solutions. Thus, in considering the solutions of nonassociated liquids, the concept of solutions as statistical sets of solids (“spheres,” “ellipsoids,” and “rods”) that interact with each other according to a defined model law is used. For highly dilute solutions of electrolytes, the consideration is limited to only the electrostatic interaction of the ions as point charges or as spheres of a given radius.


Kirillin, V. A., and A. E. Sheindlin. Termodinamika rastvorov. Moscow, 1956.
Shakhparonov, M. I. Vvedenle v molekuliarnuiu teoriiu rastvorov. Moscow, 1956.
Prigogine, I. The Molecular Theory of Solutions. Amsterdam, 1957.
Robinson, R., and R. Stokes. Rastvory elektrolitov. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English).
Tager, A. A. Fiziko-khimiiapolimerov, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Kurs fizicheskoi khimii, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Edited by Ia. I. Gerasimov. Moscow, 1969–73.



A single, homogeneous liquid, solid, or gas phase that is a mixture in which the components (liquid, gas, solid, or combinations thereof) are uniformly distributed throughout the mixture.


1. a homogeneous mixture of two or more substances in which the molecules or atoms of the substances are completely dispersed. The constituents can be solids, liquids, or gases
2. the act or process of forming a solution
3. the state of being dissolved (esp in the phrase in solution)
4. a mixture of two or more substances in which one or more components are present as small particles with colloidal dimension; colloid
5. Maths
a. the unique set of values that yield a true statement when substituted for the variables in an equation
b. a member of a set of assignments of values to variables under which a given statement is satisfied; a member of a solution set
6. the stage of a disease, following a crisis, resulting in its termination
7. Law the payment, discharge, or satisfaction of a claim, debt, etc.


A marketroid term for something he wants to sell you without bothering you with the often dizzying distinctions between hardware, software, services, applications, file formats, companies, brand names and operating systems.

"Flash is a perfect image-streaming solution." "What is it?" "Um... about a thousand dollars."

See also: technology.
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