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Solubility in Chemistry: Definition & Properties

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  • 0:05 What is Solubility?
  • 1:32 What Affects Solubility?
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Nathan Crawford

Nathan, a PhD chemist, has taught chemistry and physical science courses.

Expert Contributor
Jolene Chisholm

Jolene has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology from Dalhousie University. Jolene has taught university courses in genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry.

This lesson defines solubility and discusses this property in the context of chemistry. The lesson also includes a discussion of the impact that temperature and intermolecular interactions can have on solubility.

What is Solubility?

Have you ever wondered why salt dissolves completely in water, but the oil in some salad dressing never mixes with the vinegar? This simple question of why some substances mix while others do not is explained by a concept known as solubility. Solubility is defined as the ability of one substance to dissolve within another substance.

The solubility of solids mixed with liquids, liquids mixed with other liquids, and gases mixed with liquids is a vitally important factor within chemistry, and the solubility of solids within liquids is particularly significant. Some reactions produce compounds that are insoluble, or have very low solubility, which means they don't mix easily. The insoluble products, called precipitates, settle to the bottom of containers following the reaction. Liquids also exhibit varying solubility with one another. Some liquids, like isopropyl alcohol and water, show great solubility with one another. Isopropyl alcohol and water are used to make an antiseptic solution for medical applications. Other liquids, such as gasoline, have extremely low solubility with water. Gases like oxygen easily dissolve in liquids like water and are vital to the biochemistry of aquatic organisms. Oxygen can also dissolve in the liquid ingredients that are used to make plastics, and if the oxygen is not removed, the oxygen can stop the chemical reaction that forms the plastic.

What Affects Solubility?

One of the factors that has a profound impact on solubility is temperature. Temperature, a measure of the available thermal energy, can increase the solubility of solids in liquids. This phenomenon can be observed in the creation of supersaturated solutions, or mixtures that contain far more of the solid dissolved in a liquid than would be possible under room temperature conditions. One application of supersaturated solutions can be seen in the production of rock candy where high-temperature sugar solutions readily form sugar crystals on the surface of objects placed in the solution. For gases that are dissolved in liquids, however, the trend is just the opposite. Cooler temperatures increase the solubility of gases in liquids, and higher temperatures decrease the solubility of gases. An example of the effect of temperature on dissolved gases can be found in the loss of dissolved oxygen in lakes or streams during extremely hot weather, a condition that results in the death of fish.

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Additional Activities

Why is Soda Fizzy?

When you open a can of soda, what do you notice? Is it the sound of the fizz? Is it the bubbles rising to the surface? Inside every container of soda, there's some pretty neat chemistry going on. Let's explore solubility.

What Makes Soda Pop Fizzy?

The bubbles in soda are the result of carbonation. Carbonation occurs when gaseous carbon dioxide, or CO{eq}_2 {/eq}, dissolves in the aqueous soda solution.

CO{eq}_2 {/eq} is not very soluble in water, so manufacturers must increase the pressure in the bottle and lower the temperature to trap the CO{eq}_2 {/eq} molecules in the solution. Once this occurs, the bottle is sealed to prevent the escape of the CO{eq}_2 {/eq}. Some of the CO{eq}_2 {/eq} will be dissolved, and some of it will form a gaseous layer at the top of the bottle. When the bottle is opened, the CO{eq}_2 {/eq} gas at the top escapes. This releases the pressure, allowing the dissolved CO{eq}_2 {/eq} to come out of solution. The result is fizz.


Activity: How Does Temperature Affect Solubility?


Materials:

  • Two identical plastic bottles of carbonated soda
  • Drinking cups
  • A cooler filled with ice or a refrigerator
  • A warm location, such as a space next to a heater or in a sunny car


Method:

1) Place one bottle of pop in the cold space and the other bottle in the warm space. Allow to stand for at least one hour.

2) Without opening the bottle, observe any differences between the two:

  • Are the bottles the same size?
  • Does one have more bubbles than the other?

3) Slowly open each bottle. Observe any differences. Do they make the same noise?

4) Pour some of each bottle into separate cups and taste. Observe any differences in taste and mouth-feel.

  • Are they equally fizzy?
  • Do they taste the same?


Solution

Which bottle has the most soluble carbon dioxide? The cold soda has more dissolved carbon dioxide. Observations that back up this statement include:

  • The warm bottle bulged more than the cold bottle.
  • The cold bottle had a softer fizz sound and less gas escaped when it was opened.
  • The cold bottle did not taste 'flat' while the warm bottle did.

These observations mean that more carbon dioxide was dissolved in the cold beverage.

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