Homogeneous and Heterogeneous | Difference, Mixtures, Example (Chemical Physics)

Homogeneous and heterogeneous

Homogeneous and Heterogeneous | Difference, Mixtures, Example

The terms heterogeneous and homogeneous refer to mixtures of materials in chemistry. The difference between heterogeneous and homogeneous mixtures lies in the degree of mixing of the materials and the uniformity of their composition.

Homogeneous and heterogeneous are two different words that we can distinguish based on the context in which we use them. The materials, mixtures, reactions, etc. can be homogeneous or heterogeneous. But the difficulty in identifying the difference between these two problems mainly arises when classifying mixtures.

Examples of homogeneous mixtures

There are several examples of homogeneous mixtures encountered on a daily basis:

  • Air
  • Sugar water
  • Rainwater
  • Vodka
  • The vinegar
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Steel

You cannot select the components of a homogeneous mixture or use simple mechanical means to separate them. You cannot see the individual chemicals or ingredients in this type of mixture. Only one phase of matter is present in a homogeneous mixture.

A heterogeneous mixture is a mixture in which the components of the mixture are not uniform or have localized regions with different properties. Different samples of the mixture are not identical to each other. There are always two or more phases in a heterogeneous mixture, where you can identify a region with distinct properties from another region, even if they are of the same state of matter (e.g. liquid, solid).

Examples of heterogeneous mixtures

Heterogeneous mixtures are more common than homogeneous mixtures. Examples include:

  • Milk cereals
  • Vegetable soup
  • Pizza
  • Some blood
  • Gravel
  • Soda ice cream
  • Vinaigrette
  • Mixed nuts
  • Bowl of colorful candies
  • Ground

Usually, it is possible to physically separate the components of a heterogeneous mixture. For example, you can centrifuge (spin) solid blood cells to separate them from blood plasma. You can remove the ice cubes from the soda. You can separate the candies according to their color.

How to distinguish homogeneous mixture and heterogeneous mixture

The difference between the two types of mixtures is a matter of scale or quantity. If you take a closer look at the sand at the beach, you can see the various components, including shells, coral, sand, and organic matter. It is a heterogeneous mixture. However, if you look at a large amount of sand from a distance, it is impossible to distinguish the different types of particles. The mixture is homogeneous. This may seem confusing!

To identify the nature of a mixture, consider its sample size. If you can see more than one phase of the material or different regions in the sample, it is heterogeneous. If the composition of the mixture appears uniform wherever you sample it, the mixture is homogeneous.

Mixtures Table (Gas, Liquid and Solid)

Colloids are heterogeneous but in appearance they seem to be homogenous because the constituent particles in the mixture are very small – 1 nanometer to 1-micrometer.

Dispersion medium (mixture phase)
Dissolved or dispersed phase
Suspension (coarse dispersion)
GasGas mixture: air (oxygen and other gases in nitrogen)NoneNone
LiquidNoneLiquid aerosol:[11]
fog, mist, vapor, hair sprays
SolidNoneSolid aerosol:[11]
smoke, ice cloud, air particulates
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 particles suspended in water), chalk powder suspended in water
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

Sources: PinterPandai, Lumen Learning, Ask Any Difference, Diffen

Photo credit: John Trombley / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)


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