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A solid solution, a term popularly used for metals, is a homogenous mixture of two different kinds of atoms in solid state and have a single crystal structure. Many examples can be found in metallurgy, geology, and solid-state chemistry. The word "solution" is used to describe the intimate mixing of components at the atomic level and distinguishes these homogeneous materials from physical mixtures of components. Two terms are mainly associated with solid solutions - solvents and solutes, depending on the relative abundance of the atomic species.
In general if two compounds are isostructural then a solid solution will exist between the end members (also known as parents). For example sodium chloride and potassium chloride have the same cubic crystal structure so it is possible to make a pure compound with any ratio of sodium to potassium (Na1-xKx)Cl by dissolving that ratio of NaCl and KCl in water and then evaporating the solution. A member of this family is sold under the brand name Lo Salt which is (Na0.33K0.66)Cl hence why it contains 66% less sodium than normal table salt (NaCl). The pure minerals are called halite and sylvite; a physical mixture of the two is referred to as sylvinite.
Because minerals are natural materials they are prone to large variations in composition. In many cases specimens are members for a solid solution family and geologists find it more helpful to discuss the composition of the family than an individual specimen. Olivine is described by the formula (Mg, Fe)2SiO4, which is equivalent to (Mg1−xFex)2SiO4. The ratio of magnesium to iron varies between the two endmembers of the solid solution series: forsterite (Mg-endmember: Mg2SiO4) and fayalite (Fe-endmember: Fe2SiO4) but the ratio in olivine is not normally defined. With increasingly complex compositions the geological notation becomes significantly easier to manage than the chemical notation.
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