Solution (Encyclopedia of Science)
A solution is a homogeneous mixture of two or more substances. The term homogeneous means "the same throughout." For example, suppose that you make a solution of sugar in water. If you were to take a drop of the sugar solution from anywhere in the solution, it would always have the same composition.
A number of specialized terms are used in talking about solutions. The solvent in a solution is the substance that does the dissolving. The solute is the substance that is dissolved. In the sugar solution described above, the water is the solvent and the sugar is the solute.
Although that definition is neat, it does not always make a lot of sense. For example, one can make a solution of two gases. In fact, the air around us is a solution consisting of oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases. In this case, it is difficult to say which gas "does the dissolving" and which gas (or gases) "is dissolved."
An alternative method of defining solvent and solute is to say that the component of the solution present in the largest amount is the solvent while the components present in lesser amounts are solute. According to that definition, nitrogen is the solvent in atmospheric air because it is present in the largest amount. Oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases, then, are the solutes....
(The entire section is 1057 words.)
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