What is a Solvent?

What is a Solvent in Science?

A substance in which solute is dissolved and forms solution is a solvent. Generally solvent is a liquid but it can also be a solid, a gas, or a supercritical fluid.

The quantity of solute which is dissolved in a specific volume of solvent varies with temperature. Some of the uses of solvents are dry cleaning, paint thinners, nail polish removers, glue solvents, spot removers, detergents, and perfumes.

Water is a solvent for polar molecules. Water is the most common solvent as it has the capacity to dissolve almost all solute.

Ions and proteins present in a living cell also dissolve in water inside a cell. Solvents have various applications in chemical, pharmaceutical, oil, and gas industries for chemical syntheses and in purification processes.

Types of Solvent

On the basis of polarity there are two types of solvents they are polar and non-polar. Polarity is the ability of a solvent to dissolve any solute.

Water is a universal solvent used everywhere because of the high polarity of the water molecule. This mechanism of water by which it dissolves solutes applies to all the same polar solvents, such as methanol.

The arrangement of ions gives a molecule distinct positive and negative charges which have the ability to react or interact with the molecules of polar solutes electrostatically.


Water molecules are attracted to electrically charge solute molecules and if the force of attraction is strong to breaks the solute molecules and distribute these molecules evenly with the solvent, then we say that the solute is dissolved.

Non-polar solutes such as fats, oils, and greases, do not dissolve in water. When we mix them they form an emulsion.

Non-polar solvents, such as carbon tetrachloride and benzene, use the same mechanism to dissolve solutes that is an electrostatic attraction.

In non-polar solvent, electrons tend to group on one side of the molecule and attract the same types of large non-polar solute molecules. By this mechanism, all non-polar solute dissolve in non-polar solvents.

Examples of Solvent

We can also classify solvents on the basis of their chemical composition. There are two types of solvents they are organic solvents and inorganic solvents.

Inorganic solvents are those solvents which do not contain carbon such as water, ammonia whereas organic solvents are those solvents which contain carbon and oxygen in their composition such as alcohols, glycol ethers.

Solvents which contain carbon and hydrogen only are hydrocarbon solvents such as gasoline, benzene, toluene, hexane, etc.

Those solvents which contain halogens such as chlorine (Cl), fluorine (F), bromine (Br) or iodine (I) in their composition are halogenated solvents such as carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The Solution, Solubility, and Solvation

A solution is a mixture of the substances which dissolve into one another. The substances which dissolve with each other and form solution are soluble substances.

Whereas when two substances which are not able to dissolve with each other such as sand and water are insoluble substances. A solution is a mixture in which all the substances are distributed uniformly which leaves no residue.

Solubility is the ability of one substance to dissolve with another substance. In other words, solubility is the maximum amount of solute that dissolves in a solvent to form an equilibrium.

Equilibrium is a state where reactants and products reach a balanced state means no more solute can be dissolved in the solvent in the fixed temperature and pressure.

Such a solution is a saturated solution. Substances which dissolve with each other completely in any proportion and form a homogeneous solution are miscible substances.

Those substances which are not able to dissolve with each other are immiscible substances. Solvation is the interaction between the solute and solvent to attain stability by ion-dipole and hydrogen bonding attractions.

Uses Of Solvent

The uses of solvents may be the following:

  • Paints and coatings.
  • Inks.
  • Personal care products such as cosmetics, nail remover.
  • Cleaning products.
  • Healthcare applications such as pharmaceutical products.
  • Automobiles in washer fluid to remove dirt and grime from the windshield.

Solved Question for you

Q. What are the main factors that affect solubility?

A: Temperature

B: Pressure

C: Nature of solute and solvent

D: All of the above.

Ans: The correct answer is D.

As we heat a solution can increase or decrease solubility, increasing pressure of the solution can increase or decrease solubility, if the solute is non-polar and the solvent is polar it does not dissolve so for making as a solution both solute and solvent should be of same nature.

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