precipitation, in chemistry, a process in which a solid is separated from a suspension, sol, or solution. In a suspension such as sand in water the solid spontaneously precipitates (settles out) on standing. In a sol the particles are precipitated by coagulation. A solute (dissolved substance) may be precipitated from a solution by several means. A solution of salt may be concentrated by evaporation until the salt crystallizes. When a saturated solution of sugar is cooled, sugar crystals form. The addition of a solution of silver nitrate to a solution containing chloride ions results in the formation of insoluble silver chloride: AgNO3+Cl−→NO3−+AgCl↓. In each case the precipitate formed may settle out spontaneously or may be collected by filtration or centrifugation. It is often difficult to obtain a pure substance by a single precipitation, and a substance may be further purified by reprecipitation after it has been redissolved. The term precipitation is also applied to the separation of particles of a solid or liquid suspended in a gas.
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