Dispersion (chemistry)

Dispersion (chemistry)

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A dispersion is a system in which particles are dispersed in a continuous phase of a different composition (or state). See also emulsion
Emulsion
An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible . Emulsions are part of a more general class of two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Although the terms colloid and emulsion are sometimes used interchangeably, emulsion is used when both the dispersed and the...

. A dispersion is classified in a number of different ways, including how large the particles are in relation to the particles of the continuous phase, whether or not precipitation
Precipitation (chemistry)
Precipitation is the formation of a solid in a solution or inside anothersolid during a chemical reaction or by diffusion in a solid. When the reaction occurs in a liquid, the solid formed is called the precipitate, or when compacted by a centrifuge, a pellet. The liquid remaining above the solid...

 occurs, and the presence of Brownian motion
Brownian motion
Brownian motion or pedesis is the presumably random drifting of particles suspended in a fluid or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory.The mathematical model of Brownian motion has several real-world applications...

.

There are three main types of dispersions:
  • Coarse dispersion (Suspension
    Suspension (chemistry)
    In chemistry, a suspension is a heterogeneous fluid containing solid particles that are sufficiently large for sedimentation. Usually they must be larger than 1 micrometer. The internal phase is dispersed throughout the external phase through mechanical agitation, with the use of certain...

    )
  • Colloid
    Colloid
    A colloid is a substance microscopically dispersed evenly throughout another substance.A colloidal system consists of two separate phases: a dispersed phase and a continuous phase . A colloidal system may be solid, liquid, or gaseous.Many familiar substances are colloids, as shown in the chart below...

  • Solution
    Solution
    In chemistry, a solution is a homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase. In such a mixture, a solute is dissolved in another substance, known as a solvent. The solvent does the dissolving.- Types of solutions :...


Types of dispersions

Dissolved or dispersed phase Continuous medium Solution: Homogeneous mixture: Dissolved phase < 1 nanometer  Colloid: Dispersed phase between 1 nanometer and 1 micrometer
Micrometer
A micrometer , sometimes known as a micrometer screw gauge, is a device incorporating a calibrated screw used widely for precise measurement of small distances in mechanical engineering and machining as well as most mechanical trades, along with other metrological instruments such as dial, vernier,...

 
Coarse dispersion (Suspension): Heterogeneous mixture: Dispersed phase > 1 micrometer
Gas
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

 
Gas Gas mixture: air (oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 and other gases in nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

)
None None
Liquid
Liquid
Liquid is one of the three classical states of matter . Like a gas, a liquid is able to flow and take the shape of a container. Some liquids resist compression, while others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container, and maintains a fairly...

 
Gas None Aerosol
Aerosol
Technically, an aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in a gas. Examples are clouds, and air pollution such as smog and smoke. In general conversation, aerosol usually refers to an aerosol spray can or the output of such a can...

: fog
Fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

, mist
Mist
Mist is a phenomenon of small droplets suspended in air. It can occur as part of natural weather or volcanic activity, and is common in cold air above warmer water, in exhaled air in the cold, and in a steam room of a sauna. It can also be created artificially with aerosol canisters if the...

, vapor
Vapor
A vapor or vapour is a substance in the gas phase at a temperature lower than its critical point....

, hair spray
Hair spray
Hair spray is a common cosmetic product that is sprayed onto hair to keep it stiff or in a certain style...

s
Aerosol
Solid
Solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

 
Gas None Solid aerosol: smoke
Smoke
Smoke is a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases emitted when a material undergoes combustion or pyrolysis, together with the quantity of air that is entrained or otherwise mixed into the mass. It is commonly an unwanted by-product of fires , but may also be used for pest...

, cloud
Cloud
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and/or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. They are also known as aerosols. Clouds in Earth's atmosphere are studied in the cloud physics branch of meteorology...

, air particulates
Solid aerosol: dust
Dust
Dust consists of particles in the atmosphere that arise from various sources such as soil dust lifted up by wind , volcanic eruptions, and pollution...

Gas Liquid Solution
Solution
In chemistry, a solution is a homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase. In such a mixture, a solute is dissolved in another substance, known as a solvent. The solvent does the dissolving.- Types of solutions :...

: oxygen in water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 
Foam
Foam
-Definition:A foam is a substance that is formed by trapping gas in a liquid or solid in a divided form, i.e. by forming gas regions inside liquid regions, leading to different kinds of dispersed media...

: whipped cream
Whipped cream
Whipped cream is cream that has been beaten by a mixer, whisk, or fork until it is light and fluffy. Whipped cream is often sweetened and sometimes flavored with vanilla, in which case it may be called Chantilly cream or crème Chantilly ....

, shaving cream
Shaving cream
Shaving cream is a substance that is applied to the face or wherever else hair grows, to provide lubrication and avoid razor burn during shaving. Shaving cream is often bought in a spray can, but can also be purchased in tubs or tubes. Shaving cream in a can is commonly dispensed as a foam or a gel...

 
Foam
Liquid Liquid Solution: alcoholic beverage
Alcoholic beverage
An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol, commonly known as alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three general classes: beers, wines, and spirits. They are legally consumed in most countries, and over 100 countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption...

s
Emulsion
Emulsion
An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible . Emulsions are part of a more general class of two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Although the terms colloid and emulsion are sometimes used interchangeably, emulsion is used when both the dispersed and the...

: miniemulsion
Miniemulsion
A miniemulsion is a special case of emulsion. A miniemulsion is obtained by shearing a mixture comprising two immiscible liquid phases, one surfactant and one co-surfactant ....

, microemulsion
Microemulsion
Microemulsions are clear, thermodynamically stable, isotropic liquid mixtures of oil, water and surfactant, frequently in combination with a cosurfactant. The aqueous phase may contain salt and/or other ingredients, and the "oil" may actually be a complex mixture of different hydrocarbons and olefins...

 
Emulsion: milk
Milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

, mayonnaise
Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise, , often abbreviated as mayo, is a sauce. It is a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices. Lecithin in the egg yolk is the emulsifier. Mayonnaise varies in color but is often white, cream, or pale...

, hand cream
Solid Liquid Solution: sugar
Sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

 in water
Sol
Sol
Soľ is a village and municipality in Vranov nad Topľou District in the Prešov Region of eastern Slovakia.-Geography:The municipality lies at an altitude of 140 metres and covers an area of 10.286 km². It has a population of about 2,293 people....

: pigment
Pigment
A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

ed ink
Ink
Ink is a liquid or paste that contains pigments and/or dyes and is used to color a surface to produce an image, text, or design. Ink is used for drawing and/or writing with a pen, brush, or quill...

, blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 
Suspension
Suspension (chemistry)
In chemistry, a suspension is a heterogeneous fluid containing solid particles that are sufficiently large for sedimentation. Usually they must be larger than 1 micrometer. The internal phase is dispersed throughout the external phase through mechanical agitation, with the use of certain...

: mud
Mud
Mud is a mixture of water and some combination of soil, silt, and clay. Ancient mud deposits harden over geological time to form sedimentary rock such as shale or mudstone . When geological deposits of mud are formed in estuaries the resultant layers are termed bay muds...

 (soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

, clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 or silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

 particles are suspended in water), chalk
Chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

 powder suspended in water
Gas Solid Solution: hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 in metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

s
Solid foam: aerogel
Aerogel
Aerogel is a synthetic porous material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and thermal conductivity...

, styrofoam
Styrofoam
Styrofoam is a trademark of The Dow Chemical Company for closed-cell currently made for thermal insulation and craft applications. In 1941, researchers in Dow's Chemical Physics Lab found a way to make foamed polystyrene...

, pumice
Pumice
Pumice is a textural term for a volcanic rock that is a solidified frothy lava typically created when super-heated, highly pressurized rock is violently ejected from a volcano. It can be formed when lava and water are mixed. This unusual formation is due to the simultaneous actions of rapid...

 
Foam: dry sponge
Liquid Solid Solution: amalgam
Amalgam (chemistry)
An amalgam is a substance formed by the reaction of mercury with another metal. Almost all metals can form amalgams with mercury, notable exceptions being iron and platinum. Silver-mercury amalgams are important in dentistry, and gold-mercury amalgam is used in the extraction of gold from ore.The...

 (mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 in gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

), hexane
Hexane
Hexane is a hydrocarbon with the chemical formula C6H14; that is, an alkane with six carbon atoms.The term may refer to any of four other structural isomers with that formula, or to a mixture of them. In the IUPAC nomenclature, however, hexane is the unbranched isomer ; the other four structures...

 in paraffin wax 
Gel
Gel
A gel is a solid, jelly-like material that can have properties ranging from soft and weak to hard and tough. Gels are defined as a substantially dilute cross-linked system, which exhibits no flow when in the steady-state...

: agar
Agar
Agar or agar-agar is a gelatinous substance derived from a polysaccharide that accumulates in the cell walls of agarophyte red algae. Throughout history into modern times, agar has been chiefly used as an ingredient in desserts throughout Asia and also as a solid substrate to contain culture medium...

, gelatin
Gelatin
Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, brittle , flavorless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing. Substances containing gelatin or functioning in a similar...

, silicagel, opal
Opal
Opal is an amorphous form of silica related to quartz, a mineraloid form, not a mineral. 3% to 21% of the total weight is water, but the content is usually between 6% to 10%. It is deposited at a relatively low temperature and may occur in the fissures of almost any kind of rock, being most...

 
Wet sponge
Solid Solid Solution: alloy
Alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

s, plasticizer
Plasticizer
Plasticizers or dispersants are additives that increase the plasticity or fluidity of the material to which they are added; these include plastics, cement, concrete, wallboard, and clay. Although the same compounds are often used for both plastics and concretes the desired effects and results are...

s in plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

s
Solid sol: cranberry glass
Cranberry glass
Cranberry glass is a red glass made by adding gold chloride to molten glass. Tin, in the form of stannous chloride, is sometimes added in tiny amounts as a reducing agent...

 
Gravel
Gravel
Gravel is composed of unconsolidated rock fragments that have a general particle size range and include size classes from granule- to boulder-sized fragments. Gravel can be sub-categorized into granule and cobble...

, granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...


Structure and Properties of Dispersions


It is still common belief, that dispersions basically do not display any structure, i.e., the particles (or in case of emulsions: droplets) dispersed in the liquid or solid matrix (the "dispersion medium") are assumed to be statistically distributed. Therefore, for dispersions usually percolation theory
Percolation theory
In mathematics, percolation theory describes the behavior of connected clusters in a random graph. The applications of percolation theory to materials science and other domains are discussed in the article percolation.-Introduction:...

 is assumed to appropriately describe their properties.

However, percolation theory can only be applied if the system it should describe is in or close to thermodynamic equilibrium
Thermodynamic equilibrium
In thermodynamics, a thermodynamic system is said to be in thermodynamic equilibrium when it is in thermal equilibrium, mechanical equilibrium, radiative equilibrium, and chemical equilibrium. The word equilibrium means a state of balance...

. There are only very few studies about the structure of dispersions (emulsions), although they are plentiful in type and in use all over the world in innumerable applications (see below).

In the following, only such dispersions will be discussed with a dispersed phase diameter of less than 1 µm. To understand the formation and properties of such dispersions (incl emulsions), it must be considered, that the dispersed phase exhibits a "surface", which is covered ("wet") by a different "surface" which hence are forming an interface (chemistry)
Interface (chemistry)
An interface is a surface forming a common boundary among two different phases, such as an insoluble solid and a liquid, two immiscible liquids or a liquid and an insoluble gas. The importance of the interface depends on which type of system is being treated: the bigger the quotient area/volume,...

. Both surfaces have to be created (which requires a huge amount of energy), and the interfacial tension (difference of surface tension) is not compensating the energy input, if at all.

A review article in introduces into various attempts to describe dispersions / emulsions. Dispersion is a process by which (in the case of solids becoming dispersed in a liquid) agglomerated particles are separated from each other and a new interface, between an inner surface of the liquid dispersion medium and the surface of the particles to be dispersed, is generated. Dispersion is a much more complicated (and less well understood) process than most people believe.

The above cited review article also displays experimental evidence for that dispersions have a structure very much different from any kind of statistical distribution (which would be characteristic for a system in thermodynamic equilibrium
Thermodynamic equilibrium
In thermodynamics, a thermodynamic system is said to be in thermodynamic equilibrium when it is in thermal equilibrium, mechanical equilibrium, radiative equilibrium, and chemical equilibrium. The word equilibrium means a state of balance...

, but in contrast very much showing structures similar to self-organisation which can be described by non-equilibrium thermodynamics
Non-equilibrium thermodynamics
Non-equilibrium thermodynamics is a branch of thermodynamics that deals with systems that are not in thermodynamic equilibrium. Most systems found in nature are not in thermodynamic equilibrium; for they are changing or can be triggered to change over time, and are continuously and discontinuously...

. This is the reason why some liquid dispersions turn to become gels or even solid at a concentration of a dispersed phase above a certain critical concentration (which is dependant on particle size and interfacial tension). Also the sudden appearance of conductivity in a system of a dispersed conductive phase in an insulating matrix has been explained. The above cited review article also introduces into some first complete non-equilibrium thermodynamics theory of dispersions
(http://www2.organic-nanometal.de/Research/wisslit/nonequ2.html).