Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Mixtures
Name: Donald C.
I teach 8th grade science. We are currently working on the concepts of pure vs
mixture and solubility. I am creating a homework assignment to involve parents and have
discovered that I am unsure of the definition of a homogeneous mixture.
I know that homogeneous is a mixture that is uniform throughout. I know that a solution is a
homogeneous mixture. Examples of kitchen solutions would include Kool-Aid, sugar water,
honey, coffee, tea, and soda. I know that salsa or chicken soup, for example, would be a
Question: Would powdered sugar (sugar and corn starch) be considered a homogeneous mixture
or heterogeneous? Phrased another way, does a homogeneous mixture have to be a solution?
"Uniform throughout" refers to a lot of length scales. For example, a mixture of sugar and
salt is definitely a heterogeneous mixture because the sugar and salt crystals are physically
separate from one another (at least under a magnifying glass you can see the difference if not
with the naked eye). A more sweeping definition of a homogenous mixture is that it is uniform
at all macroscopic
levels and methods of observation (or if you prefer, all macroscopic length scales). A
heterogeneous mixture is not macroscopic at all levels of observation. So an alloy of two
or more elements (like nickle and zinc) is a homogenous mixture, whereas a bunch of nickle
and zinc filings mixed together in a bowl would be a heterogeneous mixture.
All that said, I believe that powdered sugar is a heterogeneous mixture because I think that
close examination would reveal crystals of sugar distinct from the from the flakes of
cornstarch. However, if I am incorrect and the sugar is literally dissolved into the
cornstarch, it would be a heterogeneous mixture.
Finally, "solution" is the term chemists usually use synonymously with "homogenous mixture."
However, "solution" is not as precise a concept and is sometimes used to describe heterogeneous
mixtures as well.
Hope this was helpful,
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Update: June 2012