Colloids are a ubiquitous but often overlooked aspect of our daily lives. They are essential in various industries, from food and cosmetics to healthcare and more. In this article, we’ll explore 5 intriguing examples of colloids in daily life, shedding light on their importance and impact on our world. Before delving into specific examples, let’s briefly define colloids.
A colloid is a heterogeneous mixture where one substance (the dispersed phase) is finely divided and dispersed within another substance (the continuous phase). These finely divided particles are typically between 1 nanometer and 1 micrometer in size. Colloids can exhibit unique properties and play crucial roles in various applications.
5 Fascinating Examples of Colloids in Daily Life
- Photographic Film
- Shaving Cream
Toothpaste is indeed an example of a colloid, specifically a gel colloidal system. It consists of solid particles (abrasives and fluoride) and liquid components (water, glycerol, and various chemicals) dispersed in a semisolid matrix (thickening agents, such as silica or cellulose derivatives). In toothpaste, the solid particles are usually small and suspended evenly throughout the liquid phase.
The solid particles are typically abrasive substances that help clean teeth and fluoride compounds for tooth protection. These solid particles are smaller than what you would find in a suspension and not completely dissolved like in a true solution. When you squeeze it out of the tube, you don’t see distinct, separated layers of solid and liquid components.
This even distribution of particles within a continuous medium (the semisolid gel) is a characteristic of a colloid. Not to mention, since colloids are stable mixtures, toothpaste maintains its consistency over time. Therefore, as a result, it doesn’t settle out or separate into distinct phases, as you might see in a suspension.
In milk, you have tiny fat globules, proteins, and minerals dispersed in water. The fat globules are the most prominent solid component. These fat globules are much larger than individual molecules. But still small enough to remain suspended in the liquid medium without settling to the bottom, which is characteristic of colloidal particles.
When you look at a glass of milk, it appears to be a uniform and consistent mixture. Meaning, you don’t see the fat globules or proteins separating out or settling to the bottom, as they would in a suspension. This is why all the components are dispersed evenly throughout the liquid phase.
And, just because of the fact that colloids are typically stable mixtures, milk maintains its consistency over time. It doesn’t spontaneously separate into distinct phases or layers, as some suspensions would.
Photographic film consists of an emulsion layer, which is a mixture of light-sensitive silver halide crystals (usually silver bromide or silver chloride) dispersed within a gelatin medium. This emulsion is then coated onto a flexible plastic or cellulose acetate base.
In the emulsion layer, the silver halide crystals are typically on the nanometer scale, making them much larger than individual molecules but still small enough to remain suspended in the gelatin without settling to the bottom. This is characteristic of colloidal particles.
As far as scientific evidence is concerned, when light passes through the emulsion layer of photographic film, the small silver halide crystals scatter the light, leading to the Tyndall effect. This scattering of light is a property of colloids and is used in photography to capture images.
Another daily-life example of a colloidal system is shaving cream. These foam colloids contain a significant amount of gas, typically air or another propellant, dispersed within a liquid or semisolid medium. The gas is introduced during the manufacturing process and creates a foam.
They have a stable, creamy texture, and when you apply them to your skin, you don’t see distinct, separated layers of gas and liquid components. Since, colloids are known for their stability, as a result, shaving cream maintains its foam structure over time without quickly collapsing or separating.
In addition, shaving cream’s colloid structure allows it to create a cushioning layer between the razor and the skin, providing a smoother and more comfortable shaving experience.
Last but not least one on my list of exclusive examples of colloidal systems is Fog. Basically, it is a colloid in the form of a liquid-gas colloid. In fog, tiny water droplets or ice crystals are dispersed in the air.
These suspended particles are small enough to remain suspended for an extended period without rapidly settling due to gravity, which is a characteristic of colloidal systems. Fog is different from suspension because suspensions typically consist of larger particles that can settle out over time.
In the case of fog, the water droplets or ice crystals are so small that they remain suspended, creating the characteristic hazy or misty appearance associated with fog. This is similar to how clouds, which are also composed of tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere, are considered colloids as well.
Some Other Examples of Colloidal System in Real Life
Apart from the above-mentioned ones, I am also mentioning a few here.
- Whipped Cream
- Cloud, etc.
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