What is the relationship between the terms heterogeneous and homogeneous? 

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caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of my favorite aspects of science is the use of root words to form new terms, some of which can sound like "science jargon"  if you don't know what they mean, or you don't take the time to dissect them (and I didn't mean that as a science pun either). The terms "heterogenous" and "homogenous" are great examples because they incorporate three root words that show up frequently in science; hetero, homo and gen.

Hetero means "different,"

Homo means "the same," or "similar," and

Gen mean "origin, creation, making."

So, with a little smoothing of the metaphorical edges, the terms heterogenous and homogenous mean, respectively, "something that has been made different" and "something that has been made the same." 

Heterogeneity and homogeneity are usually used in the description of mixtures, specifically the way in which the components of those mixtures are oriented in three-dimensional space. For example, say a mixture is made of 500 red particles and 500 blue particles which are different only in color. No matter where you looked in a homogenous mixture, you would see the same number of blue and red particles in every picture. If this were a heterogenous mixture, you would see a different number of particles, or you  might just have a layer of red on top of blue, or vice versa.

The exact reasons for being heterogenous or homogenous have to do with a complicated series of interactions at the molecular level, and are also time-dependent; for example, milk can be homogenized, but will become heterogenous over time, and the same can be said for other mixtures. Some heterogenous mixtures can also be made into homogenous ones through the use of additives such as emulsifiers. 

c67julie | Student

If you are referring to homogeneous mixtures and heterogeneous mixtures in chemistry then there is a relationship in that they are both types of mixtures. What is different about them is how the components mix together. Homogeneous mixtures are ones in which the components of the mixture are uniformly distributed. This means that you cannot pick out the individual components of that mixture. Homogeneous mixtures cannot be easily separated. Meaning, you usually cannot separate them physically. These are usually referred to as solutions. Examples include: sugar water, vinegar, and air. Air is made up of several gasses (oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and some others) but you cannot look at the air and see the different gases present. This is considered uniform distribution. Heterogeneous mixtures are mixtures in which the components are not uniform and have different properties. You can physically separate the components of a heterogeneous mixture. Examples include: gravel, vegetable soup, and a salad. A salad you can physically take out the lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots, and other components.

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