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Concentration of Solutions: Definition & Levels

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  • 0:04 What is a Solution?
  • 0:59 Dilute or Concentrated
  • 2:22 Calculating Concentration
  • 3:43 Example
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson, we learn about solutions and what makes up a solution. We also look at solution concentration levels and how to calculate the concentration of a solution.

What is a Solution?

In everyday life we refer to a solution as a way to solve a problem, but in science, solution can mean something else. A solution is a combination of two or more compounds. Typically, we refer to these compounds as the solvent or the solute.

A solvent is the material used to dissolve another material into it. A solute is what is being dissolved into the solvent. For example, we can have a solution of sugar water. In this example, the solvent is the water and the solute is the sugar.

When we talk about the concentration of a solution, we are typically referring to the concentration of the solute in a solvent (in other words, how much solute there is in comparison to solvent).

Water (a solvent) can only hold so much solute (such as sugar) before the solute can no longer dissolve into the solvent. In this case, the solute will fall out of solution.

Dilute or Concentrated

A solution can be dilute or concentrated. A dilute solution is a solution that has very little solute in the solvent. This is often done to make the solute less potent, such as in the case of hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid can be very dangerous, but if it is dilute then it is not as dangerous to use. Its dilute form makes it much easier to work with.

A concentrated solution is a solution where the solvent has a lot of solute in the solution. A solution that is filled to capacity is called a saturated solution. There are many compounds that are not active unless they are dissolved into solution, yet we still want the full potency of the solute. In these cases, we will use a concentrated solution.

It won't do us any good to fill the solvent beyond its saturation point, as the excess solute will simply fall out of the solution. But, we can experiment to determine what is the maximum that a solvent can hold before it reaches its saturation level, which is based on the solubility, or how easily it goes into the solution of a solute.

Based on our needs, we can have a solution on a continuum between dilute and concentrated. Maybe we want to only slightly dilute a compound. We won't fill the solvent to its maximum, but we might put in slightly less of the solute than the maximum.

Calculating Concentration

Concentration can be calculated as long as you know the moles of solvent per liter, or molarity. For example, we might say: ''a 1 M solution of hydrochloric acid.'This means that there is 1 mole of hydrochloric acid per liter of solution.

So what does that mean and how do we know that there is 1 mole in the liter of solution?

First let's review what a mole is. This is not the blind animal that lives in the ground. Instead it is referring to a specific number of molecules. In fact, it is referring to 6.02 x 10^23 molecules of atoms. We could just as easily refer to a dozen hydrochloric acid molecules if we only wanted to talk about 12 molecules of hydrochloric acid.

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