The key difference between solvent and solute is that the solute is the one to be dissolved while, the solvent is responsible for dissolving it.
A solution is a homogeneous mixture of two or more substances. We name it a homogenous mixture because the composition is uniform throughout the solution. Also, the components of a solution are mainly of two types, solutes and the solvents. The solvent dissolves the solutes and forms a uniform solution. So, normally solvent amount is higher than the solute quantity.
What is Solvent?
Solvent is a substance with dissolving capability. Thus, it can dissolve another substance. Also, solvents can occur in a liquid, gaseous or solid state. However, most commonly, we use liquids as solvents. Furthermore, among liquids, water is common as a universal solvent, because it can dissolve many substances than any other solvent. Moreover, we can dissolve gas, solid, or any other liquid solute in liquid solvents. But, in gas solvents, only gas solutes will dissolve.
Furthermore, there is a limit to the amount of solutes that we can add to a certain amount of solvent. We say the solution has become saturated if we have added the maximum amount of solutes to the solvent. There are solvents in two types as organic or inorganic solvents. For example, ether, hexane, and methylene chloride are organic solvents, whereas water is an inorganic solvent.
Polar and Non-Polar Solvents
There are two broad categories of solvents as polar solvents and non-polar solvents.
Polar solvent molecules have a charge separation, therefore, capable of dissolving polar solutes. In the dissolution process, dipole-dipole interactions or dipole-induced dipole interactions may occur. We can further divide polar solvents as polar protic and polar aprotic solvents. Polar protic solvents are capable of hydrogen bond formation with the solutes. Therefore, they solvate anions by hydrogen bonding. Water and methanol are polar protic solvents. Polar aprotic solvents cannot form hydrogen bonds. However, they have large dipole moments, hence form dipole-dipole interactions with ionic solutes, therefore, solvate them. Acetone is a polar aprotic solvent.
Non polar solvents dissolve non polar solutes. Hexane, benzene, and toluene are some common non-polar solvents.
Other than the above-classified solvents, there are some solvents, which have intermediate polar and non-polar properties. According to “like dissolve like” phenomenon, solvents dissolve solutes, which match them.
Properties of solvents are essential to know when we use them in laboratories. For example, knowing the boiling points of solvents helps us to determine how to use distillation methods to separate them. Alternatively, the density of solvents is important in solvent extraction techniques. Volatility, toxicity, and flammability are some of the other parameters, which we have to focus when we are working with different solvents.
What is Solute?
Solute is a substance that dissolves in a solvent in order to form a solution. Solutes may occur in liquid, gaseous or solid phase. Normally, in a solution, solutes are in a lesser amount than the solvents.
When a solution has the maximum amount of solutes it can dissolve, then we say the solution became saturated. The dissolution of solute in solvent changes the properties of the solvents.
What is the Difference Between Solvent and Solute?
Solvent is a substance with dissolving capability, thus can dissolve another substance whereas solute is a substance that dissolves in a solvent in order to form a solution. This is the key difference between solvent and solute. Moreover, there are some other differences between solvent and solute in their physical states, solubility and boiling points. For instance, considering the boiling point, the boiling point of a solute is usually higher than that of a solvent.
The below infographic shows more details on the difference between solvent and solute.
Summary – Solvent vs Solute
Solutes are substances that dissolve in a solvent to form a solution. Therefore, the difference between solvent and solute is that solute is the one to be dissolved, and the solvent is responsible for dissolving it.