Video: Characteristics of Heterogeneous Mixtures

Which of the following is true for a heterogeneous mixture? [A] A heterogeneous mixture is one in which two or more components are reacting together. [B] A heterogeneous mixture is one which can be un-mixed. [C] The components of a heterogeneous mixture are evenly distributed. [D] The components of a heterogeneous mixture are unevenly distributed. [E] The components of a heterogeneous mixture exist in a range of phases.

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Video Transcript

Which of the following is true for a heterogeneous mixture? A heterogeneous mixture is one in which two or more components are reacting together. A heterogeneous mixture is one which can be unmixed. The components of a heterogeneous mixture are evenly distributed. The components of a heterogeneous mixture are unevenly distributed. Or the components of a heterogeneous mixture exist in a range of phases.

Let’s look more closely at the technical term heterogeneous. The first part of this word “hetero” means mixed or unlike. So, for example, a heteroatom is an atom which is not carbon or hydrogen. It is unlike carbon or hydrogen. So, how does this relate to the description of a mixture?

Let’s imagine that we’re trying to make a mixture of these orange and pink dots. They could be particles, for example. As we start to mix these two components, we gradually form a mixture where the particles start to become slightly more evenly distributed. Eventually, we’ll end up with a mixture where both components are completely evenly distributed.

But how does the term heterogeneous relate to one of these pictures? It may help to think about what the opposite of heterogeneous is. If “hetero” means mixed or unlike, then the opposite, homogeneous, “homo”, means like. You may also like to think where you may have heard homogeneous in everyday life. If you think about milk, for example, we often describe milk as being homogenized. When milk has been homogenized, it means that the little globules of fat within the milk are evenly distributed throughout the whole carton of milk. This means you don’t get a thick fat layer at the top of your carton or bottle of milk.

So, if homogenized means we’ve evenly distributed the fat in our milk, then a homegeneous mixture must mean that everything is evenly distributed. So, we could label the diagram on the right as a homogeneous mixture because the particles are all evenly distributed. If heterogeneous is the opposite, that must mean that in a heterogeneous mixture, we have unevenly distributed particles. And this can relate to the diagram we have before mixing.

So now, let’s compare these to the answers that we’ve been given. The most appropriate of the answers is the fourth one. The components of a heterogeneous mixture are unevenly distributed. The answer directly above it, where the components of a mixture are evenly distributed, is the definition of a homogeneous mixture. So, our answer is the fourth one. The components of a heterogeneous mixture are unevenly distributed.

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