The Dissolution Process


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The first photo shows a small mound of an orange crystalline solid. There is a right-facing arrow. The second photo shows a translucent, colorless liquid in a clear container. There is a right-facing arrow. The third photo shows a translucent orange liquid in a clear, covered container.
Figure 1. When potassium dichromate (K2Cr2O7) is mixed with water, it forms a homogeneous orange solution. (credit: modification of work by Mark Ott)

The Dissolution Process (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)

Solutions defined as homogeneous mixtures of two or more substances. Often, one component of a solution is present at a significantly greater concentration, in which case it is called the solvent. The other components of the solution present in relatively lesser concentrations are called solutes. Sugar is a covalent solid composed of sucrose molecules, C12H22O11. When this compound dissolves in water, its molecules become uniformly distributed among the molecules of water:

The subscript “aq” in the equation signifies that the sucrose molecules are solutes and are therefore individually dispersed throughout the aqueous solution (water is the solvent). Although sucrose molecules are heavier than water molecules, they remain dispersed throughout the solution; gravity does not cause them to “settle out” over time.

Potassium dichromate, K2Cr2O7, is an ionic compound composed of colorless potassium ions, K+, and orange dichromate ions, Cr2O72−. When a small amount of solid potassium dichromate is added to water, the compound dissolves and dissociates to yield potassium ions and dichromate ions uniformly distributed throughout the mixture (Figure 1), as indicated in this equation:

As with the mixture of sugar and water, this mixture is also an aqueous solution. Its solutes, potassium and dichromate ions, remain individually dispersed among the solvent (water) molecules.

Water is used so often as a solvent that the word solution has come to imply an aqueous solution to many people. However, almost any gas, liquid, or solid can act as a solvent. Many alloys are solid solutions of one metal dissolved in another; for example, US five-cent coins contain nickel dissolved in copper. Air is a gaseous solution, a homogeneous mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and several other gases. Oxygen (a gas), alcohol (a liquid), and sugar (a solid) all dissolve in water (a liquid) to form liquid solutions. Table 1 gives examples of several different solutions and the phases of the solutes and solvents.

Different Types of Solutions

soft drinks1CO2(g)H2O(l)
hydrogen in palladiumH2(g)Pd(s)
rubbing alcoholH2O(l)C3H8O(l) (2-propanol)
Table 1 Source: OpenStax Chemistry 2e

Solutions exhibit these defining traits:

  • They are homogeneous; after a solution is mixed, it has the same composition at all points throughout (its composition is uniform).
  • The physical state of a solution—solid, liquid, or gas—is typically the same as that of the solvent, as demonstrated by the examples in Table 1.
  • The components of a solution are dispersed on a molecular scale; they consist of a mixture of separated solute particles (molecules, atoms, and/or ions) each closely surrounded by solvent species.
  • The dissolved solute in a solution will not settle out or separate from the solvent.
  • The composition of a solution, or the concentrations of its components, can be varied continuously (within limits determined by the solubility of the components).


Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:


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