Definition - What does Emulsion mean?

Emulsion is a suspension of tiny droplets of one liquid in another liquid, such as an oil-in-water emulsion. An emulsion is thicker (has a higher viscosity) than either oil or water.

Emulsions have important applications in many fields, such as:

  • Industries that prepare Dyes and tanning products
  • Synthetic rubber and plastics industries
  • Petrochemical and Fertilizer manufacturing plants
  • Industries that manufacture cosmetics.

Emulsions are the class of colloids also known as two-phase systems of matter. Emulsions and colloid terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Petropedia explains Emulsion

Oil and water mixture is an emulsion when shaken together. The oil forms drops and disperses throughout the water. The term emulsion is often applied to mixed systems that should better be characterized as solutions, suspensions or gels. For example, so-called photographic emulsion is actually a gelatin gel in which tiny crystals of silver bromide are dispersed.

Emulsions consist of a continuous phase and a dispersed phase and the boundary between both these phases is known as the interface. Emulsions have cloudy appearance and are unstable and thus do not form spontaneously.

Emulsifying agents are used to extinguish class B fires as these agents encapsulate the fuel in a fuel water emulsion, thus traps the flammable vapors in the water phase. Rust can occur if emulsion breaks, in which case the instability of the emulsion renders the rust inhibitors ineffective. Broken and unstable emulsions are often caused by excessive bacterial contamination.

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