Learn more physics!
Paper is a solid. If I blend it in a blender with water, is it a liquid? A solution? My mom says its a suspension. What is that? Help!!!
- Cena (age 10)
Sounds like your mom's got the right idea. What you've got isn't a
liquid or a solution, it's a suspension. To get a liquid from your
solid, you'd have to heat the paper up until it melted (hard to do,
since it'd probably burn first). The difference between a solution and
a suspension is a bit trickier.
In a solution, the molecules in the thing you're adding (the
solute) actually get mixed up with the molecules of the thing you're
adding it to (the solvent). Once they're mixed, they're hard to
separate without boiling. An example of this would be if you mixed some
salt into water. The salt crystals actually break apart into separate
atoms and molecules and get mixed up with the water molecules.
In a suspension, the molecules don't actually get mixed up. It's
more like there's large-ish chunks (particles) of a solid just floating
around in the liquid. If you let it sit for a while, the solid
particles will settle to the bottom. An example of this is if you mixed
sand with water. The sand wouldn't break down into molecules and mix
with the water - it would just float around in it. And eventually, it
would settle to the bottom. Paper in water is the same way.
(republished on 07/25/06)
Follow-up on this answer.