Solutions and Mixtures
Before we dive into solutions, let's separate solutions from other types of mixtures. Solutions are groups of molecules that are mixed up in a completely even distribution. Not the easiest way to say it. Scientists say that solutions are homogenous systems. Other types of mixtures can have a little higher concentration on one side of the liquid when compared to the other side. Solutions have an even concentration throughout the system. An example: Sugar in water vs. Sand in water. Sugar dissolves and is spread throughout the glass of water. The sand sinks to the bottom. The sugar-water could be considered a solution. The sand-water is a mixture. No matter how hard you stir, the sand will not disappear into the water the way the sugar will.
Can Anything Be In Solution?
Pretty much. Solutions can be solids dissolved in liquids. They could also be gases dissolved in liquids (such as carbonated water). There can also be gases in other gases and liquids in liquids. If you mix things up and they stay at an even distribution, it is a solution. You probably won't find people making solid-solid solutions in front of you. They start off as solid/gas/liquid-liquid solutions and then harden at room temperature. Alloys with all types of metals are good examples of a solid solution at room temperature. A simple solution is basically two substances that are combined, called the solute and the solvent. The solute is the substance to be dissolved (sugar). The solvent is the one doing the dissolving (water). As a rule of thumb, there is usually more solvent than solute.
So what happens? How do you make that solution? Mix the two substances and stir. It's that simple. Science breaks it into three steps. When you read the steps, remember... Solute=Sugar, Solvent=Water, System=Glass.
1. The solute is placed in the solvent and the concentrated solute slowly breaks into pieces.
2. The molecules of the solvent begin to move out of the way and they make room for the molecules of the solute. Example: The water has to make room for the sugar molecules.
3. The solute and solvent interact with each other until the concentration of the two substances is equal throughout the system. The concentration of sugar in the water would be the same from a sample at the top, bottom, or middle of the glass.
Can Anything Change Solutions?
Sure. All sorts of things can change the concentrations of substances in solution. Scientists use the word solubility. Solubility is the ability of the solvent (water) to dissolve the solute (sugar). You may have already seen the effect of temperature in your classes. Usually when you heat up a solvent, it can dissolve more solid materials (sugar) and less gas (carbon dioxide). Next on the list of factors is pressure. When you increase the surrounding pressure, you can usually dissolve more gases in the liquid. Think about your soda can. They are able to keep the fizz inside because the contents of the can are under higher pressure. Last is the structure of the substances. Some things dissolve easier in one kind of substance than another. Sugar dissolves easily in water; oil does not. Water has a low solubility when it comes to oil.