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Is there an actual difference, or are they synonymous?

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Let's try some examples for mixtures and solutions. Think about the answers yourself before you uncover them ;-)

  1. We cut carrots, celery, and green beans into pieces and throw them into boiling water to prepare a vegetable soup. Mixture or solution?

    It's a mixture, because the pieces of the different vegetables can be retrieved by a physical method, such as picking them with a fork.

  2. Throw a spoonful of sugar into a cup of water and stir until there's no sugar left on the ground of the cup. Mixture or solution?

    This is a solution. It it homogenous; even the tiniest part of the water contains the same amount of sugar and there is no way to get back the sugar (unless you boil the water off).

  3. Take a handful of razorblades and a handful of ants. Throw everything in a bowl. Wear gloves! Shake. Mixture or solution?

    This is a mixture. You can separate the components with a magnet - or by luring the ants out of the bowl with a trace of sugar water.

  4. Melt iron. Add cobalt. Don't mix with bare hands ;-) Let it cool down until it is a solid again. Mixture or solution?

    This is a solution. Solutions do not need to be liquid. They can be solids as well. You can cut the metal block into pieces and mill every piece down to a fine powder and the amount of iron and cobalt in every grain of powder will be the same. Again, you cannot fiddle the components apart by any physical method.

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    $\begingroup$ The gist is clear, but "mixture" is not so clearly defined, i think. Even "solution" does not have a clear-cut definition, if you try to avoid discussing it in terms of Gibbs free energy. Think of a solution of virus particles. Or polystyrene in an organic solvent. Interesting question, actually. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Nov 7 '16 at 14:50
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Mixture- two or more substances physically combined and can be separated. Solution- a homogeneous mixture that has two or more substances in it

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