The term supersaturation refers to a solution
In chemistry, a solution is a homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase. In such a mixture, a solute is dissolved in another substance, known as a solvent. The solvent does the dissolving.- Types of solutions :...

 that contains more of the dissolved material than could be dissolved by the solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

 under normal circumstances. It can also refer to a vapor
A vapor or vapour is a substance in the gas phase at a temperature lower than its critical point....

 of a compound that has a higher (partial) pressure than the vapor pressure
Vapor pressure
Vapor pressure or equilibrium vapor pressure is the pressure of a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium with its condensed phases in a closed system. All liquids have a tendency to evaporate, and some solids can sublimate into a gaseous form...

 of that compound.


Small particles (seeds
Seed crystal
A seed crystal is a small piece of single crystal/polycrystal material from which a large crystal of the same material typically is to be grown...

) can trigger
Trigger (particle physics)
In particle physics, a trigger is a system that uses simple criteria to rapidly decide which events in a particle detector to keep when only a small fraction of the total can be recorded. Trigger systems are necessary due to real-world limitations in data storage capacity and rates...

 the separation of the dissolved material from the solvent or condensation
Condensation is the change of the physical state of matter from gaseous phase into liquid phase, and is the reverse of vaporization. When the transition happens from the gaseous phase into the solid phase directly, the change is called deposition....

 of the vapor. Seeds triggering the conversion of vapor are referred to as condensation nuclei, as in the case of water vapor
Water vapor
Water vapor or water vapour , also aqueous vapor, is the gas phase of water. It is one state of water within the hydrosphere. Water vapor can be produced from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water or from the sublimation of ice. Under typical atmospheric conditions, water vapor is continuously...

. In the solid form these seeds can lead to the formation of crystallite
Crystallites are small, often microscopic crystals that, held together through highly defective boundaries, constitute a polycrystalline solid. Metallurgists often refer to crystallites as grains.- Details :...

s or even large single crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

Supersaturation is a measure of the deviation of a dissolved salt crystal from its equilibrium state.


Supersaturated solutions are prepared or result when some condition of a saturated solution is changed, for example increasing temperature
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

, decreasing volume
Volume is the quantity of three-dimensional space enclosed by some closed boundary, for example, the space that a substance or shape occupies or contains....

 of the saturated Liquid (as by evaporation
Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs only on the surface of a liquid. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which, instead, occurs on the entire mass of the liquid....

), or increasing pressure
Pressure is the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Gauge pressure is the pressure relative to the local atmospheric or ambient pressure.- Definition :...



Carbonated water
Carbonated water
Carbonated water is water into which carbon dioxide gas under pressure has been dissolved, a process that causes the water to become effervescent....

 is a supersaturated solution of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 gas in water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

. At the elevated pressure in the bottle
A bottle is a rigid container with a neck that is narrower than the body and a "mouth". By contrast, a jar has a relatively large mouth or opening. Bottles are often made of glass, clay, plastic, aluminum or other impervious materials, and typically used to store liquids such as water, milk, soft...

, more carbon dioxide can dissolve in water than at atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure is the force per unit area exerted into a surface by the weight of air above that surface in the atmosphere of Earth . In most circumstances atmospheric pressure is closely approximated by the hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of air above the measurement point...

. At atmospheric pressure, the carbon dioxide gas escapes very slowly from the supersaturated liquid
Liquid is one of the three classical states of matter . Like a gas, a liquid is able to flow and take the shape of a container. Some liquids resist compression, while others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container, and maintains a fairly...

. This process may be accelerated by the presence of nucleation
Nucleation is the extremely localized budding of a distinct thermodynamic phase. Some examples of phases that may form by way of nucleation in liquids are gaseous bubbles, crystals or glassy regions. Creation of liquid droplets in saturated vapor is also characterized by nucleation...

 sites within the solution, such as small bubbles, caused by shaking the bottle, or another solute, such as sugar powder or a widget
Widget (beer)
A widget is a device placed in a container of beer to manage the characteristics of the beer's head. The original widget was patented in Ireland by Guinness. The "floating widget" is found in cans of beer as a hollow plastic sphere, 3 cm in diameter with a small hole in one side...

. A Diet Coke and Mentos eruption is a rather extreme example. Some beverage products such as ales and stouts, e.g. Guinness
Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide, brewed in almost...

, rely on this effect to produce the 'head' on the surface of the poured product. This has led to the invention of the widget
Widget (beer)
A widget is a device placed in a container of beer to manage the characteristics of the beer's head. The original widget was patented in Ireland by Guinness. The "floating widget" is found in cans of beer as a hollow plastic sphere, 3 cm in diameter with a small hole in one side...

, a device developed to produce enhanced bubble seeding in liquids, especially with dual supersaturated gas phases (carbon dioxide and nitrogen) (see patents by Nicholas Fitzpatrick and Kuzniarski).

Scuba divers'
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

Biological tissue
Tissue is a cellular organizational level intermediate between cells and a complete organism. A tissue is an ensemble of cells, not necessarily identical, but from the same origin, that together carry out a specific function. These are called tissues because of their identical functioning...

 become saturated with breathing gas
Breathing gas
Breathing gas is a mixture of gaseous chemical elements and compounds used for respiration.Air is the most common and only natural breathing gas...

es during a dive. Supersaturation is a theoretical
The English word theory was derived from a technical term in Ancient Greek philosophy. The word theoria, , meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action...

 term describing a state in which the tension of a dissolved gas is greater than its inspired partial pressure
Partial pressure
In a mixture of ideal gases, each gas has a partial pressure which is the pressure which the gas would have if it alone occupied the volume. The total pressure of a gas mixture is the sum of the partial pressures of each individual gas in the mixture....

 when the diver ascends, in contrast to Henry's law
Henry's law
In physics, Henry's law is one of the gas laws formulated by William Henry in 1803. It states that:An equivalent way of stating the law is that the solubility of a gas in a liquid at a particular temperature is proportional to the pressure of that gas above the liquid...

. If the diver ascends too fast, these gases form bubbles, resulting in decompression sickness
Decompression sickness
Decompression sickness describes a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside the body on depressurization...

. The term was popularized
Popularity is the quality of being well-liked or common, or having a high social status. Popularity figures are an important part of many people's personal value systems and form a vital component of success in people-oriented fields such as management, politics, and entertainment, among...

 by J.S. Haldane.

In air that is supersaturated, water droplets may precipitate upon being disturbed. This can be observed in a cloud chamber
Cloud chamber
The cloud chamber, also known as the Wilson chamber, is a particle detector used for detecting ionizing radiation. In its most basic form, a cloud chamber is a sealed environment containing a supersaturated vapor of water or alcohol. When a charged particle interacts with the mixture, it ionizes it...

. In the more general context a precipitate may form.

Supersaturated solutions of sugar and water are commonly used to make rock candy
Rock candy
Rock candy is a type of confectionery mineral composed of relatively large sugar crystals. This candy is formed by allowing a supersaturated solution of sugar and water to crystallize onto a surface suitable for crystal nucleation, such as a string or stick...

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