AskDefine | Define emulsion

Dictionary Definition



1 (chemistry) a colloid in which both phases are liquids; "an oil-in-water emulsion"
2 a light-sensitive coating on paper or film; consists of fine grains of silver bromide suspended in a gelatin [syn: photographic emulsion]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Emulsion



  1. a stable suspension of small droplets of one liquid in another with which it is immiscible
    Mayonnaise is an emulsion where egg is used to keep oil and water mixed.
  2. a colloid in which both phases are liquid
  3. the coating of photosensitive silver halide grains in a thin gelatine layer on a photographic film


suspension of one liquid in another

Derived terms




Extensive Definition

Used in pharmaceuticals and in cosmetics(skin care)
An emulsion(IPA: /ɪˈmʌlʃən/) is a mixture of two immiscible (unblendable) substances. One substance (the dispersed phase) is dispersed in the other (the continuous phase). Examples of emulsions include butter and margarine, milk and cream, espresso, mayonnaise, the photo-sensitive side of photographic film, magmas and cutting fluid for metal working. In butter and margarine, oil surrounds droplets of water (a water-in-oil emulsion). In milk and cream, water surrounds droplets of oil (an oil-in-water emulsion). In certain types of magma, globules of liquid NiFe may be dispersed within a continuous phase of liquid silicates. Emulsification is the process by which emulsions are prepared.
Emulsion is also a term used in the oil field as untreated well production that consists primarily of crude oil and water.


Emulsions tend to have a cloudy appearance, because the many phase interfaces (the boundary between the phases is called the interface) scatter light that passes through the emulsion. Emulsions are unstable and thus do not form spontaneously. Energy input through shaking, stirring, homogenizers, or spray processes are needed to form an emulsion. Over time, emulsions tend to revert to the stable state of oil separated from water. Surface active substances (surfactants) can increase the kinetic stability of emulsions greatly so that, once formed, the emulsion does not change significantly over years of storage. Homemade oil and vinegar salad dressing is an example of an unstable emulsion that will quickly separate unless shaken continuously. This phenomenon is called coalescence, and happens when small droplets recombine to form bigger ones. Fluid emulsions can also suffer from creaming, the migration of one of the substances to the top of the emulsion under the influence of buoyancy or centripetal force when a centrifuge is used.
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 tends to imply that both the dispersed and the continuous phase are liquid.
There are three types of emulsion instability: flocculation, where the particles form clumps; creaming, where the particles concentrate towards the surface (or bottom, depending on the relative density of the two phases) of the mixture while staying separated; and breaking and coalescence where the particles coalesce and form a layer of liquid.


An emulsifier (also known as an emulgent) is a substance which stabilizes an emulsion, frequently a surfactant. Examples of food emulsifiers are egg yolk (where the main emulsifying chemical is lecithin), honey and mustard, where a variety of chemicals in the mucilage surrounding the seed hull act as emulsifiers; proteins and low-molecular weight emulsifiers are common as well. In some cases, particles can stabilize emulsions as well through a mechanism called Pickering stabilization. Both mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce are oil-in-water emulsions that are stabilized with egg yolk lecithin. Detergents are another class of surfactant, and will chemically interact with both oil and water, thus stabilising the interface between oil or water droplets in suspension. This principle is exploited in soap to remove grease for the purpose of cleaning. A wide variety of emulsifiers are used in pharmacy to prepare emulsions such as creams and lotions.


emulsion in Bosnian: Emulzija
emulsion in Catalan: Emulsió
emulsion in Czech: Emulze
emulsion in Danish: Emulsion
emulsion in German: Emulsion
emulsion in Estonian: Emulsioon
emulsion in Spanish: Emulsión
emulsion in French: Émulsion
emulsion in Galician: Emulsión
emulsion in Croatian: Emulzija
emulsion in Indonesian: Emulsi
emulsion in Italian: Emulsione
emulsion in Hebrew: חומר מתחלב
emulsion in Malay (macrolanguage): Emulsi
emulsion in Dutch: Emulsie
emulsion in Japanese: エマルション
emulsion in Norwegian: Emulsjon
emulsion in Polish: Emulsja
emulsion in Portuguese: Emulsão
emulsion in Romanian: Emulsie
emulsion in Russian: Эмульсия
emulsion in Slovenian: Emulzija
emulsion in Serbian: Емулзија
emulsion in Serbo-Croatian: Emulzija
emulsion in Finnish: Emulsio
emulsion in Swedish: Emulsion
emulsion in Vietnamese: Nhũ tương
emulsion in Thai: อิมัลชัน
emulsion in Turkish: Emülsiyon
emulsion in Ukrainian: Емульсія
emulsion in Chinese: 乳剂

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

backing, bibliofilm, bipack, black-and-white film, cartridge, colloid, colloider, color film, color negative film, dope, dry plate, emulsification, emulsifier, emulsoid, film, frame, microfilm, monochromatic film, motion-picture film, negative, orthochromatic film, pack, panchromatic film, photographic paper, plate, printing paper, roll, sound film, sound track, sound-on-film, soundstripe, tripack, vehicle
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