Aqueous solution

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The first solvation shell of a sodium ion dissolved in water Na+H2O.svg
The first solvation shell of a sodium ion dissolved in water

An aqueous solution is a solution in which the solvent is water. It is mostly shown in chemical equations by appending (aq) to the relevant chemical formula. For example, a solution of table salt, also known as sodium chloride (NaCl), in water would be represented as Na+(aq) + Cl(aq). The word aqueous (which comes from aqua) means pertaining to, related to, similar to, or dissolved in, water. [1] As water is an excellent solvent and is also naturally abundant, it is a ubiquitous solvent in chemistry. Since water is frequently used as the solvent in experiments, the word solution refers to an aqueous solution, unless the solvent is specified. [2]


A non-aqueous solution is a solution in which the solvent is a liquid, but is not water. [3] (See also Solvent and Inorganic nonaqueous solvent.)


Substances that are hydrophobic ('water-fearing') do not dissolve well in water, whereas those that are hydrophilic ('water-friendly') do. An example of a hydrophilic substance is sodium chloride. In an aqueous solution the hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxide ions (OH) are in Arrhenius balance ([H+][OH] = Kw = 1 x 10−14 at 298 K). Acids and bases are aqueous solutions, as part of their Arrhenius definitions. [1] An example of an Arrhenius acid is hydrogen chloride (HCl) because of its dissociation of the hydrogen ion when dissolved in water. Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is an Arrhenius base because it dissociates the hydroxide ion when it is dissolved in water. [2]

Aqueous solutions may contain, especially in the alkaline zone or subjected to radiolysis, hydrated atomic hydrogen and hydrated electrons.


Aqueous solutions that conduct electric current efficiently contain strong electrolytes, while ones that conduct poorly are considered to have weak electrolytes. Those strong electrolytes are substances that are completely ionized in water, whereas the weak electrolytes exhibit only a small degree of ionization in water. [1] The ability for ions to move freely through the solvent is a characteristic of an aqueous strong electrolyte solution. The solutes in a weak electrolyte solution are present as ions, but only in a small amount. [2]

Nonelectrolytes are substances that dissolve in water yet maintain their molecular integrity (do not dissociate into ions). Examples include sugar, urea, glycerol, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).


Reactions in aqueous solutions are usually metathesis reactions. Metathesis reactions are another term for double-displacement; that is, when a cation displaces to form an ionic bond with the other anion. The cation bonded with the latter anion will dissociate and bond with the other anion. [1]

A common metathesis reaction in aqueous solutions is a precipitation reaction. This reaction occurs when two aqueous strong electrolyte solutions mix and produce an insoluble solid, also known as a precipitate. The ability of a substance to dissolve in water is determined by whether the substance can match or exceed the strong attractive forces that water molecules generate between themselves. If the substance lacks the ability to dissolve in water, the molecules form a precipitate. [2]

When writing the equations of precipitation reactions, it is essential to determine the precipitate. To determine the precipitate, one must consult a chart of solubility. Soluble compounds are aqueous, while insoluble compounds are the precipitate. There may not always be a precipitate. Complete ionic equations and net ionic equations are used to show dissociated ions in metathesis reactions. When performing calculations regarding the reacting of one or more aqueous solutions, in general one must know the concentration, or molarity, of the aqueous solutions.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Acid</span> Chemical compound giving a proton or accepting an electron pair

An acid is a molecule or ion capable of either donating a proton (i.e. hydrogen ion, H+), known as a Brønsted–Lowry acid, or forming a covalent bond with an electron pair, known as a Lewis acid.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Acid–base reaction</span> Chemical reaction between an acid and a base

In chemistry, an acid–base reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs between an acid and a base. It can be used to determine pH via titration. Several theoretical frameworks provide alternative conceptions of the reaction mechanisms and their application in solving related problems; these are called the acid–base theories, for example, Brønsted–Lowry acid–base theory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hydroxide</span> Chemical compound

Hydroxide is a diatomic anion with chemical formula OH. It consists of an oxygen and hydrogen atom held together by a single covalent bond, and carries a negative electric charge. It is an important but usually minor constituent of water. It functions as a base, a ligand, a nucleophile, and a catalyst. The hydroxide ion forms salts, some of which dissociate in aqueous solution, liberating solvated hydroxide ions. Sodium hydroxide is a multi-million-ton per annum commodity chemical. The corresponding electrically neutral compound HO is the hydroxyl radical. The corresponding covalently bound group –OH of atoms is the hydroxy group. Both the hydroxide ion and hydroxy group are nucleophiles and can act as catalysts in organic chemistry.

In chemistry, a salt is a chemical compound consisting of an ionic assembly of positively charged cations and negatively charged anions, which results in a compound with no net electric charge. A common example is table salt, with positively charged sodium ions and negatively charged chloride ions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solvation</span> Association of molecules of a solvent with molecules or ions of a solute

Solvation describes the interaction of a solvent with dissolved molecules. Both ionized and uncharged molecules interact strongly with a solvent, and the strength and nature of this interaction influence many properties of the solute, including solubility, reactivity, and color, as well as influencing the properties of the solvent such as its viscosity and density. If the attractive forces between the solvent and solute particles are greater than the attractive forces holding the solute particles together, the solvent particles pull the solute particles apart and surround them. The surrounded solute particles then move away from the solid solute and out into the solution. Ions are surrounded by a concentric shell of solvent. Solvation is the process of reorganizing solvent and solute molecules into solvation complexes and involves bond formation, hydrogen bonding, and van der Waals forces. Solvation of a solute by water is called hydration.

An electrolyte is a medium containing ions that is electrically conducting through the movement of those ions, but not conducting electrons. This includes most soluble salts, acids, and bases dissolved in a polar solvent, such as water. Upon dissolving, the substance separates into cations and anions, which disperse uniformly throughout the solvent. Solid-state electrolytes also exist. In medicine and sometimes in chemistry, the term electrolyte refers to the substance that is dissolved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solubility</span> Capacity of a substance to dissolve in a solvent in a homogeneous way

In chemistry, solubility is the ability of a substance, the solute, to form a solution with another substance, the solvent. Insolubility is the opposite property, the inability of the solute to form such a solution.

Solubility equilibrium is a type of dynamic equilibrium that exists when a chemical compound in the solid state is in chemical equilibrium with a solution of that compound. The solid may dissolve unchanged, with dissociation, or with chemical reaction with another constituent of the solution, such as acid or alkali. Each solubility equilibrium is characterized by a temperature-dependent solubility product which functions like an equilibrium constant. Solubility equilibria are important in pharmaceutical, environmental and many other scenarios.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Base (chemistry)</span> Type of chemical substance

In chemistry, there are three definitions in common use of the word "base": Arrhenius bases, Brønsted bases, and Lewis bases. All definitions agree that bases are substances that react with acids, as originally proposed by G.-F. Rouelle in the mid-18th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ionic compound</span> Chemical compound involving ionic bonding

In chemistry, an ionic compound is a chemical compound composed of ions held together by electrostatic forces termed ionic bonding. The compound is neutral overall, but consists of positively charged ions called cations and negatively charged ions called anions. These can be simple ions such as the sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl) in sodium chloride, or polyatomic species such as the ammonium (NH+
) and carbonate (CO2−
) ions in ammonium carbonate. Individual ions within an ionic compound usually have multiple nearest neighbours, so are not considered to be part of molecules, but instead part of a continuous three-dimensional network. Ionic compounds usually form crystalline structures when solid.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Precipitation (chemistry)</span> Chemical process leading to the settling of an insoluble solid from a solution

In an aqueous solution, precipitation is the process of transforming a dissolved substance into an insoluble solid from a supersaturated solution. The solid formed is called the precipitate. In case of an inorganic chemical reaction leading to precipitation, the chemical reagent causing the solid to form is called the precipitant.

The self-ionization of water (also autoionization of water, and autodissociation of water, or simply dissociation of water) is an ionization reaction in pure water or in an aqueous solution, in which a water molecule, H2O, deprotonates (loses the nucleus of one of its hydrogen atoms) to become a hydroxide ion, OH. The hydrogen nucleus, H+, immediately protonates another water molecule to form a hydronium cation, H3O+. It is an example of autoprotolysis, and exemplifies the amphoteric nature of water.

In chemistry, the common-ion effect refers to the decrease in solubility of an ionic precipitate by the addition to the solution of a soluble compound with an ion in common with the precipitate. This behaviour is a consequence of Le Chatelier's principle for the equilibrium reaction of the ionic association/dissociation. The effect is commonly seen as an effect on the solubility of salts and other weak electrolytes. Adding an additional amount of one of the ions of the salt generally leads to increased precipitation of the salt, which reduces the concentration of both ions of the salt until the solubility equilibrium is reached. The effect is based on the fact that both the original salt and the other added chemical have one ion in common with each other.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Neutralization (chemistry)</span> Chemical reaction in which an acid and a base react quantitatively

In chemistry, neutralization or neutralisation is a chemical reaction in which acid and a base react with an equivalent quantity of each other. In a reaction in water, neutralization results in there being no excess of hydrogen or hydroxide ions present in the solution. The pH of the neutralized solution depends on the acid strength of the reactants.

The Brønsted–Lowry theory (also called proton theory of acids and bases) is an acid–base reaction theory which was first developed by Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted and Thomas Martin Lowry independently in 1923. The basic concept of this theory is that when an acid and a base react with each other, the acid forms its conjugate base, and the base forms its conjugate acid by exchange of a proton (the hydrogen cation, or H+). This theory generalises the Arrhenius theory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dissociation (chemistry)</span> Separation of molecules or ionic compounds into smaller constituent entities

Dissociation in chemistry is a general process in which molecules (or ionic compounds such as salts, or complexes) separate or split into other things such as atoms, ions, or radicals, usually in a reversible manner. For instance, when an acid dissolves in water, a covalent bond between an electronegative atom and a hydrogen atom is broken by heterolytic fission, which gives a proton (H+) and a negative ion. Dissociation is the opposite of association or recombination.

In chemistry, a strong electrolyte is a solute that completely, or almost completely, ionizes or dissociates in a solution. These ions are good conductors of electric current in the solution.

A salt metathesis reaction, sometimes called a double displacement reaction, is a chemical process involving the exchange of bonds between two reacting chemical species which results in the creation of products with similar or identical bonding affiliations. This reaction is represented by the general scheme:

In chemistry, a phase-transfer catalyst or PTC is a catalyst that facilitates the transition of a reactant from one phase into another phase where reaction occurs. Phase-transfer catalysis is a special form of catalysis and can act through homogeneous catalysis or heterogeneous catalysis methods depending on the catalyst used. Ionic reactants are often soluble in an aqueous phase but insoluble in an organic phase in the absence of the phase-transfer catalyst. The catalyst functions like a detergent for solubilizing the salts into the organic phase. Phase-transfer catalysis refers to the acceleration of the reaction upon the addition of the phase-transfer catalyst.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chloroauric acid</span> Chemical compound

Chloroauric acid is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula H[AuCl4]. It forms hydrates H[AuCl4nH2O. Both the trihydrate and tetrahydrate are known. Both are orange-yellow solids consisting of the planar [AuCl4] anion. Often chloroauric acid is handled as a solution, such as those obtained by dissolution of gold in aqua regia. These solutions can be converted to other gold complexes or reduced to metallic gold or gold nanoparticles.


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  2. 1 2 3 4 Atkins, Peter (19 March 2004). Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight (3rd ed.). New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company. pp. F61–F64. ISBN   0-7167-5701-X.
  3. "Solutions". Washington University Chemistry Department. Washington University. Retrieved 13 April 2018.