In chemistry, a mixture is a material made up of two or more different substances which are physically combined.[1]A mixture is the physical combination of two or more substances in which the identities are retained and are mixed in the form of solutions, suspensions and colloids.[2][3]

Mixtures are one product of mechanically blending or mixing chemical substances such as elements and compounds, without chemical bonding or other chemical change, so that each ingredient substance retains its own chemical properties and makeup.[4] Despite the fact that there are no chemical changes to its constituents, the physical properties of a mixture, such as its melting point, may differ from those of the components. Some mixtures can be separated into their components by using physical (mechanical or thermal) means. Azeotropes are one kind of mixture that usually poses considerable difficulties regarding the separation processes required to obtain their constituents (physical or chemical processes or, even a blend of them).[5][6][7]

Characteristics of mixtures

Mixtures can be either homogeneous or heterogeneous. A mixture in which its constituents are distributed uniformly is called homogeneous mixture, such as salt in water. A mixture in which its constituents are not distributed uniformly is called heterogeneous mixture, such as sand in water.

One example of a mixture is air. Air is a homogeneous mixture of the gaseous substances nitrogen, oxygen, and smaller amounts of other substances. Salt, sugar, and many other substances dissolve in water to form homogeneous mixtures. A homogeneous mixture in which there is both a solute and solvent present is also a solution. Mixtures can have any amounts of ingredients.

Mixtures are unlike chemical compounds, because:

  • The substances in a mixture can be separated using physical methods such as filtration, freezing, and distillation.
  • There is little or no energy change when a mixture forms.
  • Mixtures have variable compositions, while compounds have a fixed, definite formula.
  • When mixed, individual substances keep their properties in a mixture, while if they form a compound their properties can change.[8]

The following table shows the main properties of the three families of mixtures and examples of the three types of mixture.

Mixtures Table
Dispersion medium (mixture phase)Dissolved or dispersed phaseSolutionColloidSuspension (coarse dispersion)
Gas GasGas mixture: air (oxygen and other gases in nitrogen)NoneNone
LiquidNoneLiquid aerosol:[9]
fog, mist, vapor, hair sprays
SolidNoneSolid aerosol:[9]
smoke, ice cloud, air particulates
Liquid GasSolution:
oxygen in water
Liquid foam:
whipped cream, shaving cream
Sea foam, beer head
alcoholic beverages
milk, mayonnaise, hand cream
sugar in water
Liquid sol:
pigmented ink, blood
mud (soil, clay or silt particles are suspended in water), chalk powder suspended in water
Solid GasSolution:
hydrogen in metals
Solid foam:
aerogel, styrofoam, pumice
dry sponge
amalgam (mercury in gold), hexane in paraffin wax
agar, gelatin, silicagel, opal
Wet sponge
alloys, plasticizers in plastics
Solid sol:
cranberry glass
Clay, silt, sand, gravel, granite

Physics and chemistry

A heterogeneous mixture is a mixture of two or more chemical substances (elements or compounds). Examples are: mixtures of sand and water or sand and iron filings, a conglomerate rock, water and oil, a portion salad, trail mix, and concrete (not cement). A mixture of powdered silver metal and powdered gold metal would represent a heterogeneous mixture of two elements.

Making a distinction between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures is a matter of the scale of sampling. On a coarse enough scale, any mixture can be said to be homogeneous, if the entire article is allowed to count as a "sample" of it. On a fine enough scale, any mixture can be said to be heterogeneous, because a sample could be as small as a single molecule. In practical terms, if the property of interest of the mixture is the same regardless of which sample of it is taken for the examination used, the mixture is homogeneous.

Gy's sampling theory quantitavely defines the heterogeneity of a particle as:[10]

where , , , , and are respectively: the heterogeneity of the th particle of the population, the mass concentration of the property of interest in the th particle of the population, the mass concentration of the property of interest in the population, the mass of the th particle in the population, and the average mass of a particle in the population.

During sampling of heterogeneous mixtures of particles, the variance of the sampling error is generally non-zero.

Pierre Gy derived, from the Poisson sampling model, the following formula for the variance of the sampling error in the mass concentration in a sample:

in which V is the variance of the sampling error, N is the number of particles in the population (before the sample was taken), q i is the probability of including the ith particle of the population in the sample (i.e. the first-order inclusion probability of the ith particle), m i is the mass of the ith particle of the population and a i is the mass concentration of the property of interest in the ith particle of the population.

The above equation for the variance of the sampling error is an approximation based on a linearization of the mass concentration in a sample.

In the theory of Gy, correct sampling is defined as a sampling scenario in which all particles have the same probability of being included in the sample. This implies that q i no longer depends on i, and can therefore be replaced by the symbol q. Gy's equation for the variance of the sampling error becomes:

where abatch is that concentration of the property of interest in the population from which the sample is to be drawn and Mbatch is the mass of the population from which the sample is to be drawn.


  1. Chemistry, International Union of Pure and Applied. "IUPAC Gold Book - mixture". goldbook.iupac.org. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  2. Whitten K.W., Gailey K. D. and Davis R. E. (1992). General chemistry, 4th Ed. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing. ISBN 978-0-03-072373-5.
  3. Petrucci, Ralph H.; Harwood, William S.; Herring, F. Geography (2002). General chemistry: principles and modern applications (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-014329-7. LCCN 2001032331. OCLC 46872308.
  4. De Paula, Julio; Atkins, P. W. Atkins' Physical Chemistry (7th ed.). ISBN 978-0-19-879285-7.
  5. Alberts B.; et al. (2002). Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th Ed. Garland Science. ISBN 978-0-8153-4072-0.
  6. Laidler K. J. (1978). Physical chemistry with biological applications. Benjamin/Cummings. Menlo Park. ISBN 978-0-8053-5680-9.
  7. Weast R. C., Ed. (1990). CRC Handbook of chemistry and physics. Boca Raton: Chemical Rubber Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8493-0470-5.
  8. "Definition of mixture - Chemistry Dictionary". www.chemicool.com. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  9. Everett, D. H. (23 July 1971). Manual of Symbols and Terminology for Physicochemical Quantities and Units. Appendix II Definitions, Terminology and Symbols in Colloid and Surface Chemistry. Part I (PDF) (Report). London: International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry: Division of Physical Chemistry. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 October 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  10. Gy, P (1979). Sampling of Particulate Materials: Theory and Practice. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
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