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A Simple Salt Solution Mixing Problem - yet stuck

  1. Jun 9, 2013 #1
    Hi, here is a very simple solution mixing problem that I can't solve which I am really ashamed of.

    Problem. A vessel whose capacity is 5 liters contains 2 liters of 15% salt solution. How many liters of 20% salt solution have to be mixed to the 15% solution to produce a solution with as high salt concentration as possible?

    My solution. I constructed this function for salt concentration in the new solution:


    (The amount of salt in the first solution is 2*0.15 = 0.3)

    I obtained the derivative of the above function:


    I'm stuck at this point. If I try to find points of extremum, there are none. It means that I cannot increase salt concentration in the original solution by adding the said 20% salt solution. But I know the answer is 3 liters, so I must be doing something wrong.


    As a sidenote, this problem is taken from a national maths exam. As such, you are not expected to think of mass, volume and density of water and salt. Also, I didn't make use of the fact that the vessel can contain up to 5 liters of liquid but just don't see where it fits in. Finally, I am not sure if this problem is even supposed to be solved using optimization techniques (derivatives and minima/maxima) but that was the first idea I got ...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2013 #2


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Well, 2 + x must be less than or equal to 5 liters, since that is the maximum capacity of the vessel.
  4. Jun 9, 2013 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    And that was your mistake...

    Think about it - the more 20% solution you add, the closer to 20% is the concentration of the salt in the mixture. So you have to add as much as possible. How much can you add?
  5. Jun 9, 2013 #4


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    Alternatively, the answer is to toss out the 15% solution. Just use the full 20% salt solution.
  6. Jun 10, 2013 #5
    Thanks everyone for the explanations.

    The problem here was that I expected the function to have a local maximum and when the derivative showed me it had none, I thought I must have done something wrong but now I realize that there is no reason for the function to have a maximum.

    We can consider this problem solved.
  7. Jun 10, 2013 #6


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