Chemistry - Can a solvent be a solid?

Solution 1:

When most people think of the term solvent, a liquid medium comes to mind; however, in the technical sense of the definition, this does not have to be the case. Here is the definition of a solution present in the IUPAC gold book:

A liquid or solid phase containing more than one substance, when for convenience one (or more) substance, which is called the solvent, is treated differently from the other substances, which are called solutes. When, as is often but not necessarily the case, the sum of the mole fractions of solutes is small compared with unity, the solution is called a dilute solution. A superscript attached to the ∞ symbol for a property of a solution denotes the property in the limit of infinite dilution.

The definition of a solvent is incorporated into the definition of a solution. This definition states that the substance present in the larger quantity is the solvent while that present in the smaller quantity is the solute. Based on this definition, it is entirely possible to have a solvent that is in the solid phase. For example, brass is a mixture of 64% copper and 34% zinc. According to the IUPAC definition, a solution can be in the solid phase. Because copper is present in a larger amount, it is considered the solvent -- a perfect, everyday example of a solvent in the solid phase.

Solution 2:

The term solvent is not restricted to liquids. You can very well use it for gases, it may not be wrong to say that in air, nitrogen is the solvent in which oxygen is dissolved. We regularly use supercritical $\ce{CO2}$ in chromatography. There is no harm in calling a solid solvent- think of alloys.

You can read the concept of solid solutions here .