Between Solution Suspension and Emulsion top 9 difference

Nov 20, 2023
Solution Suspension and Emulsion

In the field of mixtures, understanding particular features of Solution Suspension and Emulsion is crucial. It is a solution that can be described as a homogeneous blend in which a substance is dissolving completely in a solvent which results in a clear and transparent medium. Examples of this are sugar or salt that is dissolving in water.

suspension is a heterogeneous mix comprised of large particles that are dispersed in a gas or liquid medium. As opposed to solutions, these substances aren’t dissolved which results in an appearance of cloudy, and they can get settled in time. Imagine sand floating in the water as an illustration.

Emulsions are a particular type of heterogeneous mix in which two liquids that are immiscible (liquids that don’t mix) are mixed, and one is dispersed inside the other. The mixture of oil and water present in milk is an excellent illustration of an Emulsion. Emulsions typically need stabilizers, or even emulsifiers in order to ensure their consistency and to prevent separation.

Each of these blends has distinct characteristics and uses, which underscores the importance of discerning between them both in daily and scientific settings.

Definition of mixtures

A combination is a mix comprising two or more compounds where each has its own chemical characteristics. In mixtures, the elements are able to be combined in any ratio and can be separated using physical methods like the process of filtration, sedimentation, or the process of evaporation.

Figure 01: mixtures

There are various kinds of mix-ups:

  1. Homogeneous Mixtures (Solutions): These are mixtures in which the constituents are evenly distributed across the entire mixture and there are no apparent boundaries or distinctions between the different components. For instance, gas (a combination of various gases) and salt that dissolve in water.
  2. Heterogeneous Mixtures: These are mixes in which the ingredients aren’t evenly distributed and you can frequently see the various substances which make up the mix. Examples include water and sand salad dressing (oil and vinegar) and the rocky roads.

The type of mixture as well as the techniques employed to create them, the characteristics of the elements could be seen in the mix. Mixtures may be liquid, solid, gas, or a mixture of these.

What is the Solution?

The term “solution” refers to a Solution as a form of homogeneous mixture that occurs when one element (the solute) disintegrates in the other (the solvent). In solutions, the solute is evenly dispersed throughout the solvent at a molecular or ionic level which results in a single phase that exhibits homogeneous properties across.

The most important features of a solution are:

  1. Homogeneity: Particles of solvent are evenly dispersed throughout the solvent.
  2. Transparency: Some solutions like salt in water are transparent, but the color of the solution can change based on the substance.
  3. particle size: The particles in solutions are typically at the molecular level or at the ionic level. They’re too small for them to be observed by the naked eye, and they don’t emit light in a manner that is detectable (no”Tyndall” effect).
  4. Stability: Solute won’t separate or settle from the solvent with time.
  5. cannot be separated using physically-based methods: the solute present in the solution is not separated using simple physical techniques such as filtering. Instead, processes such as Evaporation and distillation are necessary.

Common solutions are:

  • Sugar dissolves in water
  • Our air (a gaseous mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases)
  • Metal alloys, such as brass (a solid combination of zinc and copper)
Figure 02: Solution

The substance that is present in the biggest quantity is usually called the solvent, whereas the substance(s) found in lesser amounts are known as solutes. In the case of a sugar-water mixture in which water is the solvent while sugar is the solute.

What is the Suspension?

It is a suspension that is a form of heterogeneous mix that contains solid particles dispersed within a gas or liquid medium, however, the particles aren’t dissolving. They are generally larger and visible by the naked eye or with microscopes.

Like other solutions, suspensions come with distinct features:

  1. Heterogeneity: There is a lack of uniform distribution across the medium, and they can fall to the bottom or rise toward the top because of gravity.
  2. Perception of Particles: The particles that make up the suspension are generally big enough to disperse the light (known by the name Tyndall Effect) and make the suspension appear blurred or cloudy appearance.
  3. Settlement of Particles: In time the solid particles contained in suspensions tend to sink to the lowest point of their container, particularly when they’re heavier than the fluid around them. The process of settling is reversed by shaking or stirring the suspension.
  4. Separation through physical methods: In suspension, the solid components of a suspension may be separated from gas or liquid by centrifugation or filtration.

Common suspensions are:

  • The mixture of sand and water
  • The pulp of orange juice
  • Chalk in water
  • Muddy water

It is important to note that if the suspension is left unaffected for a long enough time the solid particles will generally split from the fluid, creating distinct layers. This is a characteristic that distinguishes suspensions from colloids and solutions.

What is the Emulsion?

An Emulsion is a form of heterogeneous mixture where two impermeable (non-mixing) liquids dissolve within each other. A fluid (the dispersed stage) is broken into tiny droplets and then is dispersed over another liquid (the continuing phase).

The most important characteristics of emulsions are:

  1. Two Immiscible Liquids: Emulsions are always made up of two liquids which normally do not mix.
  2. Droplet Form: in an emulsion, one liquid is dispersed into tiny droplets in the other liquid.
  3. Stabilization: Since the liquids within an emulsion are impermeable, they are likely to segregate in time. To avoid this the emulsions usually contain stabilizing agents referred to as emulsifiers. Emulsifiers decrease the tension of the surface between the two liquids and keep the droplets evenly dispersed.
  4. Types of Emulsions:
    • Oil in water (O/W): In this type of emulsion drops of oil are dispersed throughout water. Examples include creams and milk.
    • Water in oil (W/O): Here water droplets are scattered in oil. Examples include butter and heavy creams.
  1. Display: Emulsions could be thin or thick, opaque or transparent, based on their composition as well as the size of dispersed droplets.
figure 03: Emulsion

The most common examples of emulsions are:

  • Milk (a complex emulsion consisting of fat droplets that are suspended in water as well as other components)
  • Mayonnaise (oil droplets dispersed into a water-based solution, which contains egg yolks and vinegar to act as an emulsifier)
  • Lotions and creams used in skincare (often comprised of water and oil components)

Understanding the role of emulsions in a wide range of industries, including cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals, since the texture, stability, and other characteristics of emulsions play an important impact on the efficiency and acceptance of numerous products.

Solution, Suspension, and Emulsion in the comparison chart

Comparison Chart: Solution, Suspension, and Emulsion

Property Solution Suspension Emulsion
Definition Homogeneous mixture of solute dissolved in a solvent. Solid particles are dispersed throughout a liquid or gas mixture. A heterogeneous mixture of two immiscible liquids, where one is dispersed as droplets in the other.
Homogeneity Homogeneous: Uniform composition throughout. Heterogeneous: Non-uniform composition. Heterogeneous: Although droplets are dispersed, two distinct phases exist.
Particle Size Very small (molecular or ionic level). Large (> 1000 nm), visible under a microscope. Intermediate: Generally larger than those in solutions but smaller than suspensions.
Visibility Transparent (though can be colored). Opaque or cloudy due to large particles. Can vary from translucent to opaque, depending on droplet size and concentration.
Settling of Particles Does not settle. Particles settle upon standing. May separate over time, especially without stabilizers or emulsifiers.
Tyndall Effect (Light Scattering) Does not show (clear). Shows (cloudy or murky appearance). Typically shows, as light is scattered by droplets.
Separation Methods Difficult to separate; methods like distillation or evaporation are needed. Can be separated by filtration or settling. Centrifugation or use of demulsifying agents.
Stability Stable, particles don’t separate. Unstable, particles will settle over time. Semi-stable. Can separate without stabilizers or emulsifiers.
Examples Salt in water, sugar in water. Sand in water, chalk in water. Milk (oil in water), mayonnaise (oil in water), butter (water in oil).

This chart provides a concise comparison of solutions, suspensions, and emulsions based on various key properties. Each of these mixtures plays an important role in everyday life and numerous industrial applications.

Practical Applications and Importance of Solution Suspension and Emulsion

Practical Applications and Importance of Solution, Suspension, and Emulsion

  1. Solution:
  • Medical solutions: Saline solutions (salt in water) are employed for wound cleaning, to ensure electrolyte balance as well as hydration.
  • Drinks: Soft drinks, coffee, and tea are options where different substances like flavors sugar, caffeine, and flavors are dissolving in water.
  • Metal Alloys: These are solid options. For example, bronze can be described as an alloy made of copper and Tin. They often have higher properties than their metals of origin.
  • Electronics: Solutions are utilized in batteries to conduct electricity.
  • Cleansing agents: A variety of cleaning and detergents contain chemical dissolving agents that work well for the removal of stains.
  1. Suspension:
  • pharmaceuticals: There are some medications that can be purchased in suspension form, particularly when their active ingredients aren’t easily soluble. They are shaken prior to use in order to ensure a uniform distribution.
  • Paints: Colorants in the paints are usually suspended in a liquid medium. Proper mixing ensures uniform color application.
  • food products: There are some gravies, sauces, or condiments that can be described as suspended in which particle size is dispersed into a liquid medium.
  • Wastewater Treatment: Suspensions assist in the process of sedimentation where pollutants are let to settle before the water is then processed or discharged.
  1. Emulsion:
  • Cosmetics: Creams, lotions and other makeup products are emulsions made of water and oil that provide moisture and other benefits.
  • pharmaceuticals: Emulsions may be used as drug delivery systems, particularly for substances that are oil-soluble.
  • food products: Food items such as mayonnaise salad dressings and Ice creams contain emulsions that create these products with distinct texture and mouthfeel.
  • photography: Traditional photographic film includes an emulsion layer that is a mixture of light-sensitive substances.
  • Agriculture: Herbicides as well as pesticides can be often formulated as Emulsions to facilitate spreading and adhesion to plants.

Understanding and manipulating solutions such as suspensions, emulsions, and suspensions are essential to many industries. Their many properties mean they are able to be customized to meet a broad range of uses that range from food production to medical treatments, making sure they play a crucial part in our lives and technological advances.


Solutions as well as suspensions and Emulsions are all fundamental types of mixtures that each have distinct properties and characteristics. Solutions offer complete dissolution of the solute in solvent, resulting in an even and homogeneous medium, suspensions comprise larger particles dispersed throughout the medium, resulting in an uneven distribution that may be able to settle over time.

Emulsions on the other they elegantly demonstrate the fusion of two impermeable liquids, which often require stabilizers to preserve their structure. Beyond their science-based definitions, these blends have influenced every aspect of our daily lives, from the food we eat and the medicines we use to the products we apply and the innovations in technology we appreciate.

Understanding their distinct characteristics and their properties enables industries as well as individuals to maximize their potential, and reaffirm the significance and flexibility of these blends all around us.

Reference books

For a deeper understanding of solutions, suspensions, and emulsions, as well as other topics in physical chemistry and colloid science, the following reference books are recommended:

  1. “Physical Chemistry” by Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula.
    • A comprehensive text on physical chemistry that covers solutions and other mixtures in detail.
  1. “Colloids and Interfaces with Surfactants and Polymers: An Introduction” by James Goodwin.
    • This book provides a foundational understanding of colloids, emulsions, and interfaces, particularly emphasizing the role of surfactants and polymers.
  1. “Introduction to Modern Colloid Science” by Robert J. Hunter.
    • A beginner-friendly introduction to colloid science, which covers the basics of suspensions, emulsions, and more.
  1. “Principles of Colloid and Surface Chemistry” by Paul C. Hiemenz and Raj Rajagopalan.
    • This is a more advanced text delving deep into the principles underlying colloids, including suspensions and emulsions.
  1. “Emulsions: Structure, Stability and Interactions” by Dimiter N. Petsev.
    • As the title suggests, this book is dedicated to the study of emulsions, their characteristics, and their stability.
  1. “Pharmaceutical Suspensions: From Formulation Development to Manufacturing” by Alok K. Kulshreshtha, Onkar N. Singh, and Owen I. Corrigan.