Dilution of Solutions

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This figure shows two graduated cylinders side-by-side. The first has about half as much blue liquid as the second. The blue liquid is darker in the first cylinder than in the second.
Both solutions contain the same mass of copper nitrate. The solution on the right is more dilute because the copper nitrate is dissolved in more solvent. (credit: Mark Ott)

OpenStax Chemistry 2e

Dilution is the process whereby the concentration of a solution is lessened by the addition of solvent. For example, a glass of iced tea becomes increasingly diluted as the ice melts. The water from the melting ice increases the volume of the solvent (water) and the overall volume of the solution (iced tea), thereby reducing the relative concentrations of the solutes that give the beverage its taste.

Dilution is also a common means of preparing solutions of a desired concentration. By adding solvent to a measured portion of a more concentrated stock solution, a solution of lesser concentration may be prepared. For example, commercial pesticides are typically sold as solutions in which the active ingredients are far more concentrated than is appropriate for their application. Before they can be used on crops, the pesticides must be diluted. This is also a very common practice for the preparation of a number of common laboratory reagents.

A simple mathematical relationship can be used to relate the volumes and concentrations of a solution before and after the dilution process. According to the definition of molarity, the number of moles of solute in a solution (n) is equal to the product of the solution’s molarity (M) and its volume in liters (L):

Expressions like these may be written for a solution before and after it is diluted:

where the subscripts “1” and “2” refer to the solution before and after the dilution, respectively. Since the dilution process does not change the amount of solute in the solution, n1 = n2. Thus, these two equations may be set equal to one another:

This relation is commonly referred to as the dilution equation. Although this equation uses molarity as the unit of concentration and liters as the unit of volume, other units of concentration and volume may be used as long as the units properly cancel per the factor-label method. Reflecting this versatility, the dilution equation is often written in the more general form:

where C and V are concentration and volume, respectively.


Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/books/chemistry-2e


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