What's the difference between a solvent and a solute?

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t-nez eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A solute and a solvent are two components of a solution. The solute is dissolved in the solvent. In chemistry we often deal with aqueous solutions in which water is the solvent. The solute could be an ionic compound or a polar compound such as sugar.  Gases such as carbon dioxide and oxygen can also dissolve in water and would both be considered solutes. With non-aqueous solutions it can be a little trickier to distinguish the solute from the solvent and this terminology is less useful. Examples of non-aqueous solutions are metal alloys and mixtures of gases, both of which are homogeneous.

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