9 Differences between Solute and Solvent (Solute vs Solvent)

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Last Updated on September 6, 2020 by Sagar Aryal

Differences between Solute and Solvent (Solute vs Solvent)
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Solute Definition

A solute is a substance that is added to a solvent to form a solution.

  • The solute can exist in all three forms of matter as solid, liquid, or gas.
  • In a homogenous mixture, the solute completely dissolves in another substance, and the solute is uniformly distributed throughout the solution.
  • In a heterogeneous mixture, the solute is not distributed uniformly, and its concentration is different in different parts of the solution.
  • The amount of solute in a solution is measured in terms of its concentration. The concentration of solute in a solution is determined by the ratio of the amount of the solute and the total volume of the solution.
  • The property of solute particles to dissolve within the solvent is termed as solubility. The solubility of a solute depends on a number of factors.
  • In solids and gases, temperature directly affects the solubility of the solute. Pressure, however, only affects the solubility of gases.
  • Besides, the ability of solid particles to dissolve in a solvent is dependent on their own chemical structure. Polar solute dissolves in a polar solvent and vice versa.
  • The molecular size of the solute is also essential in the solution as the solvent breaks down the solute particles and distributes it throughout the solution.
  • In almost all types of solutions, the amount or volume of solute is less than that of the solvent.
  • Solute particles tend to have a higher boiling point than solvents.
  • Examples of solute include salt in seawater, protons in the cytosol, sugar in tea, etc.

Solvent Definition

A solvent is a substance that dissolves the solute particles during the formation of a solution.

  • Most solvents are in a liquid state, but some solvents might be in a gas or solid-state.
  • The solvent breaks down the larger solute particle into smaller particles that can then be dispersed throughout the solution.
  • Solvent forms the medium of the solution that makes up most of the volume of the solution.
  • The amount of solute that can be dispersed in the solvent depends on the temperature of the medium.
  • A solution is a homogenous mixture where the solute particles are uniformly distributed throughout the solvent. Thus, each volume of solvent in the solution has the same concentration of solute.
  • The solvent and solute in a solution exist in the single-phase forming solute-solvent complexes, also known as solvates.
  • During the formation of a solution, multiple solvent particles surround the solute particle where heat energy is transferred from solvent to the solute, creating a more thermodynamically stable condition.
  • The polarity of the solvent particle is crucial to determine the solubility of any solute in the solvent.
  • Water is a polar compound that is also considered as a universal solvent that dissolves a large number of solute particles.
  • Most solvents are classified into two categories as polar and non-polar solvents. Mercury forms a particular type of solvent called amalgams.
  • The boiling point of the solvent is lower than that of solute.
  • Examples of the solvent include water, hydrocarbons, alcohols, esters, etc.

Key Differences (Solute vs Solvent)

Basis for Comparison

Solute

Solvent

DefinitionA solute is a substance that is added to a solvent to form a solution.A solvent is a substance that dissolves the solute particles during the formation of a solution.
PhaseThe solute is the dispersed phase of a solution.The solvent is the medium phase of a solution that disperses solute particles.
QuantityThe quantity of solute is less than the solvent in a solution.The quantity of solvent is more than solute in a solution.
Physical stateSolute might exist in a solid, liquid, or gaseous state.Most solvents are in a liquid state, but some solvents might exist in the gaseous state.
State of solutionThe solution might or might not in the state of the solute.The solution is almost definitely in the state of the solvent.
Boiling pointSolute has a higher boiling point than the solvent.Solvents have a lower boiling point than solute.
SolubilityThe solubility of a solute depends on the properties of solute like the surface area and size of molecules.Solubility depends on the properties of solvent like its polarity.
Heat transferIn a solution, heat is transferred to the solute.In a solution, heat is transferred from the solvent.
ExamplesExamples of solute include salt in seawater, protons in the cytosol, sugar in tea, etc.Examples of the solvent include water, hydrocarbons, alcohols, esters, etc.

Examples of Solutes

Salt in seawater

  • Salt is the solute, and water is the solvent in seawater.
  • The salt, NaCl, is an ionic compound where the negatively charged chloride ion is attracted by the slightly positively charged hydrogen atom of water. A similar attraction occurs between sodium and oxygen atoms.
  • This attraction causes the breakdown of NaCl into smaller particles which are then dispersed throughout the water.
  • The range of solubility and time period depends on the surface area of the solute particle.
  • Thus, coarse salts dissolve to a lesser extent than finer salts with a larger surface area.
  • Once all the salt is dissolved, no salt crystals will be visible in the solution.

Read Also: Lewis Acids and Bases

Protons in the cytosol

  • Protons or H+ are present in the cytoplasm of a cell that helps to maintain the pH of the solution.
  • These protons are attracted by the oxygen atom of water molecules and thus play an essential role in the transmembrane transport of molecules.
  • The membranes are permeable to water but not to the protons. As a result water molecules can freely across the membrane.
  • Due to the attraction between the water molecules and protons, a proton motive force is created.
  • The proton motive force can then be used for the transport of a variety of substances across the membrane.

Examples of Solvents

Water

  • Water is considered a universal solvent as it dissolves a wide variety of solute particles.
  • Water forms the basis of many biological solutions that carries important particles and moves them throughout the body.
  • Water is a polar solvent where the oxygen atom carries a partial negative charge, and the hydrogen atom carries a partial positive charge.
  • The polarity of water molecules makes it very compatible with several solutes molecules.
  • One of the most important examples of water as a solvent is the seawater. Seawater carries large quantities of salt dissolved in water.

Oil

  • Oil also acts as a solvent in cooking where it prevents the sticking of polar and on polar solutes to the pan.
  • The hot oil creates a solution where other foods can be cooked.
  • The oil carries some solute which can then be added to the food being cooked.
  • Oil is an organic compound and an example of a non-polar solvent, that allows the dispersal of non-polar solute molecules throughout the solution.
  • When compared to other petroleum solvents, vegetable oil is considered a non-volatile organic compound (VOC) that have high dissolving power and flash point, together with low toxicity and less environmental impact.

Read Also: Lipids- definition, properties, structure, types, examples, functions

Video Animation: Solute and Solvent (By Stile Education)

Reference

Yara-Varón, E., Li, Y., Balcells, M., Canela-Garayoa, R., Fabiano-Tixier, A. S., & Chemat, F. (2017). Vegetable Oils as Alternative Solvents for Green Oleo-Extraction, Purification, and Formulation of Food and Natural Products. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)22(9), 1474. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules22091474.

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