Creating Solutions by Combining Elements & Compounds

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  • 0:03 Mixtures are Combinations
  • 1:47 Solutions are Single-Phase
  • 3:16 Solubility and Saturation
  • 5:11 Alloys are Metal Solutions
  • 6:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

When elements and compounds physically combine, we get mixtures. But sometimes we can't tell just by looking at something that it's a mixture because the components are so well mixed. When this happens, we have solutions.

Mixtures Are Combinations

When I get up in the morning, one of the first things I do is make coffee. My day just isn't right without it, and the sooner I get it into my system the better! Then I usually make some scrambled eggs with a bunch of veggies and cheese, and once that's eaten, I am ready to take on the day.

I don't know what I would do without mixtures because these are what start my day off right! A mixture is a combination of two or more substances that each retain their own properties. My black coffee is a mixture of water, caffeine, and flavor, and my breakfast is a mixture of eggs, cheese, and chopped veggies.

Mixtures aren't just limited to your morning routine - they are common everywhere. The atmosphere is a mixture of different gases, and the water that comes out of your tap is a mixture of water and other dissolved components, like calcium and chlorine.

Mixtures come from physically combining elements and compounds. An element is a material that is made of only one atom, and elements chemically combine to form a compound, which is a group of two or more different atoms chemically bonded together.

But as you can see, even though coffee and scrambled eggs are both mixtures, they're not the same. Each is a different type of mixture. The eggs are a heterogeneous mixture because the different parts of the mixture can be identified as individual substances. I can easily see and identify the different components of the scramble ('hetero' means 'different'), like the onions, peppers, and cheese.

In contrast, my coffee is a homogeneous mixture because it has the same composition throughout (and 'homo' means 'same'). You can't see the caffeine and flavor molecules mixed into the water, but I guarantee they're in there!

Solutions Are Single-Phase

When all components of a homogeneous mixture are in the same phase, we have a solution. The air we breathe is a solution because all of the different components are in a gaseous phase. Same with a glass of saltwater. The sodium and chlorine are dissolved in the water, and all components are in a liquid phase.

Solutions can also be solids. Gemstones are solutions of different elements and compounds, but the different components are indistinguishable within that homogeneous solid mixture.

An important thing to note about solutions is that just because all components are in the same phase doesn't mean they are all present in the same amounts. If there is one component that is present more than any of the others, we call it the solvent. Quite often in a liquid solution, the solvent is water, which makes it an aqueous solution. Both your tap water and the glass of saltwater are aqueous solutions because water is the component present in the greatest amount.

Any other components in the solution that aren't the solvent are solutes. The chlorine, fluoride, and calcium in your tap water are solutes as is the salt in that glass of saltwater. We call the process of mixing solutes with solvents to form solutions dissolving. Once those solutes dissolve completely into a solvent, a homogeneous mixture is formed, and we get our solution!

Solubility and Saturation

Salt and sugar dissolve pretty easily in water. It takes just a few minutes of stirring before your solution is completely mixed. But not all solutes mix so quickly. The ability of a solute to dissolve in a solvent is called its solubility.

The solubility of a solute depends on the attractions between the particles of the solvent and solute, as well as the attractions between the solute molecules themselves. If a solute dissolves quickly and easily into a solvent, then the solute is soluble in that solvent (notice how much the word 'soluble' sounds like 'solute'?). If the solute doesn't dissolve well, then we say it is insoluble in that solvent.

We say 'in that solvent' because the solubility of a solute depends on what you are trying to dissolve it into. And not all solvents dissolve different solutes the same either - it's all about those interactions.

For example, water is very good at dissolving sugar molecules but not so good at dissolving oxygen molecules. The sugar molecules are pulled away from each other much more easily than oxygen molecules, making sugar quite soluble in water and oxygen quite insoluble in the same solvent.

While some solutes may easily dissolve in a solvent, there's a limit to how much solute can go into any given solution. If you try to dissolve sugar in a glass of water, you would be able to do so only to a certain point, after which the sugar would just collect on the bottom of the glass.

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