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Properties of Colloidal Solutions :

(1) Physical properties :

(i) Heterogeneity : Colloidal solutions are heterogeneous in nature consisting of two phases viz, the dispersed phase and the dispersion medium. Experiments like dialysis and ultra filteration clearly indicate the heterogeneous character of colloidal system. Recent investigations however, shown that colloidal solutions are neither obviously homogeneous nor obviously heterogeneous.

(ii) Filterability : Colloidal particles readily pass through ordinary filter papers. It is because the size of the pores of the filter paper is larger than that of the colloidal particles.

(iii) Non-settling nature : Colloidal solutions are quite stable as the colloidal particles remain suspended in the dispersion medium indefinitely. Thus there is no effect of gravity on the colloidal particles.

(iv) Colour : The colour of the colloidal solution is not always the same as the colour of the substances in the bulk. The colour of the colloidal solution depends upon the following factors :

(a) Size and shape of colloidal particles.

(b) Wavelength of the source of light.

(c) Method of preparation of the colloidal solution.

(d) Nature of the colloidal solution.

(e) The way an observer receives the light, i.e., whether by reflection or by transmission.

(v) Stability : Colloidal solutions are quite stable. Only a few solutions of larger particles may settle but very slowly.

Examples :

(i) Finest gold is red in colour. As the size of particles increases, it becomes purple.

(ii) Dilute milk gives a bluish tinge in reflected light whereas reddish tinge in transmitted light.

(2) Mechanical Properties :

(a) Brownian movement : Colloids particles exhibit a ceaseless random and swarming motion. This kinetic activity of particles suspended in the liquid is called Brownian movement.

Robert Brown first observed this motion with pollen grains suspended in water.

Cause of movement : Brownian movement is due to bombardment of the dispersed particles by molecules of the medium. The Brownian movement (figure) depends upon the size of sol. particles. With the increase in the size of the particle, the chance of unequal bombardment decrease, and the Brownian movement too disappears. It is due to the fact that the suspension fails to exhibit this phenomenon.

It should be noted that Brownian movement does not change with time but changes with temperatures.

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Importance :

(i) Brownian movement is a direct demonstration of the assumption that the molecules in a gas or solution are in a state of constant ceaseless motion. Thus it confirms kinetic theory.

(ii) Brownian movement does not allow the colloidal particles to settle down due to gravity and thus is responsible for their stability.

(iii) Brownian movement helps to calculate the Avogadro's number (Detail beyond the scope of the book).

(b) Sedimentation : Heavier sol. particle tend to settle down very slowly under the influence of gravity. This phenomenon is called sedimentation.

(3) Optical Properties (Tyndall Effect) :

When a strong and converging beam of light is passed through a colloidal solution, its path becomes visible (bluish light) when viewed at right angles to the beam of light (figure). This effect is called Tyndall effect. The light is observed as a bluish cone which is called Tyndall cone.

The Tyndall effect is due to scattering of light by the colloidal particles. The scattering of light cannot be due to simple reflection, because the size of the particles is smaller than the wave, length of the visible light and they are unable to reflect light waves. In fact, colloidal particles first absorb light and then a part of the absorbed light is scattered from the surface of the colloidal particles as a light of shorter wavelength. Since maximum scattering of light takes place at right angles to the place of incident light, it becomes visible when seen from that direction.

Properties of Colloidal Solutions Notes | Study Additional Documents and Tests for JEE - JEE

The Tyndall effect is observed under the following conditions :

(i) The diameter of the dispersed particles must not be much smaller than the wavelength of light employed.

(ii) The refractive indices of the dispersed phase and the dispersion medium must differ widely. This condition is fulfilled by lyophobic colloids.

It is important to note that Tyndall effect is not shown by true solutions as their particles are too small to cause scattering. Tyndall effect has been used in devising ultramicroscope and in determining the number of colloidal particles in a colloidal solution.

(4) Electrical Properties :

Origin of charge : Various reasons have been given regarding the original of charge on the colloidal particles. These are given below :

(i) Frictional electrification : It is believed to be frictional due to the rubbing of the dispersed phase particles with medium molecules.

(ii) Dissociation of the surface molecules : It leads to electric charge on colloidal particles. For example, an aqueous solution of a soap (sodium palmitate) dissociates into ions.

C15H31COONa  →   C15H31COO  + Na+

 sod. palmitate

The Na  ions pass into the solution while C15H31COO ions have a tendency to form aggregates due to weak attractive forces present in the hydrocarbon chains. Thus, the anions which are of colloidal size bear negative charge.

(iii) Preferential adsorption of ions from solution : The charge on the colloidal particles is generally acquired by preferentially adsorbing positive or negative ions from the electrolyte. Thus AgCl particles can adsorb Cl ions from chloride solutions and Ag  ions from excess Ag  ions solutions; the sol. will be negatively charged in the first case and positively charged in the second case.

(iv) Capture of electron : It is from air during preparation of sol. by Bredig's arc method.

(v) Dissociation of molecular electrolytes on the surface of particles : H2S molecules get adsorbed on sulphides during precipitation. By dissociation of H2S, H  ions are lost and colloidal particles become negatively charged.

Electrical charged sols.

Positively charged sols

1. Ferric hydroxide, aluminium hydroxide sulphides,

Negatively charged sols

Metals such as Pt, Au, Ag, Metals e.g. arsenius sulphide.

2. Basic dyes such as methylene blue

Starch, clay, silicic acid.

3. Haemoglobin

Acid dyes, such as eosin.


The two electrical properties of colloidal solutions are :

(a) Electrophoresis or Cataphoresis and (b) Electro-osmosis

(a) Electrophoresis or Cataphoresis : In a colloidal solution, the colloidal particles are electrically charged and the dispersion medium has equal but opposite charge. Thus colloidal solution on the whole is electrically neutral. When an electric current is passed through a colloidal solution, the charged particles move towards the oppositely charged electrode where coagulate due to loss of charge.

Properties of Colloidal Solutions Notes | Study Additional Documents and Tests for JEE - JEE

The phenomenon involving the migration of colloidal particles under the influence of electric field towards the oppositie charged electrode, is called electrophoresis or cataphoresis.

This phenomenon is used to determine the charge on the colloidal particles. For example, when a sol. of ferric hydroxide is taken in a U-tube and subjected to electric field, the ferric hydroxide (sol.) particles get accumulated near the cathode (figure). This shows that ferric hydroxide sol. particles are positively charged.

The sol. particles of metals and their sulphides are found to be negatively charged while those of metal hydroxides are positively charged. Basic dyes such as methylene blue haemoglobin are positively charged while acid dyes like are negatively charged.

(b) Electro-osmosis : The phenomenon involving the migration of the dispersion medium and not the colloidal particles under the influence of an electric field is electro-osmosis.

Take the pure solvent (dispersion medium) in two limbs of U-tube. In the lower middle portion of 
U-tube, a porous diaphragm containing the colloidal system is present which divides the U-tube in two sections. In each section of U-tube, an electrode is present, as shown in figure. When the electrode potential is applied to the electrodes, the solid phase of sol. (colloidal system) cannot move but the solvent (dispersion medium) moves through the porous diaphragm towards one of the electrodes. The direction of migration of dispersion medium due to electro-osmosis determines the charge on sol. particles e.g., if the dispersion medium moves towards the cathode (negative electrode), the sol. particles are also negatively charged because the dispersion medium is positively charged as on the whole colloidal solution is neutral.

Properties of Colloidal Solutions Notes | Study Additional Documents and Tests for JEE - JEE

(c) Coagulation : the colloidal sols are stable due to the presence of electric charges on the colloidal particles. Because of the electrical repulsion, the particles do not come close to one another to form precipitates. The removal of charge by any means will lead to the aggregation of particles and hence precipitation will occur immediately.

This process by means of which the particles of the dispersed phase in a sol. are pecipitated is known as coagulation.

If the coagulated particles instead of settling at the bottom of the container, float on the surface of the dispersion medium, the coagulation is called flocculation.

Most of the sols are coagulated by adding an electrolyte of opposite sign. This is due to the fact that the colloidal particles take up the ions of electrolyte whose charges are opposite to that on colloidal particles with the result that charge on the colloidal particles is neutralized. Thus coagulation takes place. For example, arsenius sulphide sol. (negatively charged) precipitated by adding barium chloride solution. It is due to the fact that the negatively charged particles of the sol. take up barium ions and get neutralized which lower the stability. As a result precipitation takes place.

It is observed that different amounts of different electrolytes is required to bring coagulation of a particular solution.

The minimum amount of an electrolyte required to cause precipitation of one litre of a colloidal solution is called coagulation value or flocculation value of the electrolyte for the sol.

The reciprocal of coagulation value is regarded as the coagulating power.

For example, the coagulation values of NaCl, BaCl2 and AlCl3 for arsenic sulphide sol. are 51, 0.69 and 0.093 millimoles/litre respectively. Thus their coagulating powers are Properties of Colloidal Solutions Notes | Study Additional Documents and Tests for JEE - JEEProperties of Colloidal Solutions Notes | Study Additional Documents and Tests for JEE - JEE and Properties of Colloidal Solutions Notes | Study Additional Documents and Tests for JEE - JEE i.e., 0.0196, 1.449 and 10.75 respectively.

The coagulation values of a few electrolytes for negatively charged arsenic sulphide and positively charged ferric hydroxide sol. are given in table given below. The valency of the coagulation ion (the ion whose charge is opposite to that of the colloidal particles) is also give.

Coagulation values of different electrolytes

Arsenic sulphide sol. (-Ve sol.)


Ferric hydroxide sol. (+Ve sol.)


Valency of coagulating cation

coagulation value (millimoles/litre)


Valency of coagulating anion

coagulation value (millimoles/litre)






































From the above table, it is clear that the coagulating power of Al ions in precipitating the arsenic sulphide sol. is approximately 550 times more than that of sodium (Na ) or potassium (K ) ions. Again, it is observed that the negatively charged arsenic sulphide sol. is coagulated by cations while positively charged ferric hydroxide sol. is coagulated by anions.

Hardy-Schulz rules : H. Schulze (1882) and W.B. Hardy (1900) suggested the following rules to discuss the effect of electrolytes of the coagulation of the sol.

(1) Only the ions carrying charge opposite to the one present on the sol. particles are effective to cause coagulation, e.g., the negative charged sol. is best coagulated by cations and a positive sol. is coagulated by anions.

(2) The charge on coagulating ion influences the coagulation of sol.

In general, the coagulating power of the active ion increases with the valency of the active ion.

After observing the regularities concerning the sing and valency of the active ion, a law was proposed by Hardy and Schulz which is termed as Hardy-Schulze law which is stated as follows:

"Higher is the valency of the active ion, greater will be its power to precipitate the sol."

Thus, coagulating power of cations is in the order of Al > Ba or Mg > Na  or K .

Similarly, to coagulating the positively charged sol. the coagulating power of anion is in the order of [Fe(CN)6]4_ > PO43_ > SO42_ > Cl_

Some other methods of coagulation :

Apart from the addition of electrolyte, coagulation can also be carried out by following methods:

(i) By persistent dialysis : It has been observed that traces of electrolytes are associated with the solution due to which it is stable. If the solution is subjected to prolonged dialysis, the traces of electrolytes are removed and coagulation takes place.

(ii) By mutual coagulation of colloids : When two sols of opposite charges are mixed together in a suitable proportion, the coagulation takes place. The charge of one is neutralized by the other. For example, when negatively charged arsenic sulphide sol. is added to positively charged ferric hydroxide sol., the precipitation of both occurs simultaneously.

(iii) By electrical method : If the electrical charge of lyophobic sol. is removed by applying any electric field such as in electrophoresis, they also precipitate out.

(iv) By excessive cooling or by excessive heating.

(5) Colligative properties : Colloidal solutions too exhibit colligative properties such as osmotic pressure, lowering of vapour pressure, depression in freezing point and elevation in boiling point. But the effect of colloidal particles on colligative properties except osmotic pressure is very small. This is due to the large size of colloidal particles. The number of colloidal particles produced by a given mass of colloid is much less than the number produced in a molecular solution, containing the same mass of solute. Hence the colligative effect in colloidal solutions is too less.

Protective colloids :

Lyophilic sols are more stable than the lyophobic sols. This is because, lyophilic colloids are extensively hydrated and these hydrated particles do not combine to form large aggregates.

Lyophobic sols are more easily coagulated by the addition of suitable electrolyte. To avoid the precipitation of lyohobic sol. by the addition of electrolyte, some lyophilic colloid is added to it. Such lyophilic colloid is called protective colloid and the action of lyophilic colloid by the electrolytes is known as protective anion. The substances commonly used as protective colloids are gelating, albumin, gum arabic, casein, starch, glue etc. A gold sol. containing a little gelatin as protective colloid needs a very large amount of sodium chloride to coagulate the sol.

Properties of Colloidal Solutions Notes | Study Additional Documents and Tests for JEE - JEE

Explanation : The particles of the protective colloid get adsorbed on the particles of the lyophobic colloid, thereby forming a protective layer around it (figure). The protective layer prevents the precipitating ions from coming in contact with the colloidal particles.

According to a recent view, the increase in stability of the lyophobic colloid is due to the mutual adsorption of the lyophilic and lyophobic colloids. It is immaterial which is adsorbed on which. In fact the smaller particles, whether of the protective colloid or the lyophobic colloid, are adsorbed on the bigger particles.

Gold number of a protective colloid is a minimum weight of it in milligrams which must be added to 10 ml of a standard red gold sol so that no coagulation of the gold sol. (i.e. change of colour from red to blue) takes place when 1 ml of 10 % sodium chloride solution is rapidly added to it. Obviously, smaller the gold number of a protective colloid, the greater is the protective action.

Protective colloid Gold number

Geltain : 0.005

Haemoglobin : 0.03

Albumin : 0.15

Starch : 2.5

Isoelectric Point of Colloid :

The hydrogen ion concentration at which the colloidal particles are neither positively charged nor negatively charged (i.e. uncharged) is known as isoelectric point of the colloid. At this point lyophilic colloid is expected to have minimum stability because at this point particles have no charge. The isoelectric point of gelatin is 4.7. This indicates that at pH = 4.7, gelating has no electrophoretic motion. Below 4.7, it moves towards the cathode and above 4.7 it moves forwards the anode. It is not always true, e.g., silicic acid has been found to have maximum stability at the isoelectric point.

Electric double layer :

The surface of a colloidal particle acquires a positive or a negative charge by selective adsorption of ions carrying +ve or -ve charges respectively. The charged layer attracts counter ions from the medium which forms a second layer. Thus, an electrical double layer is formed on the surface of the particles i.e., one due to absorbed ions and the other due to oppositely charged ions forming a diffused layer. This layer consists of ion of both the signs, but its net charge is equal and opposite to those absorbed by the colloidal particles. The existence of charges of opposite signs on the fixed and diffused parts of the double layer creates a potential between these layers. This potential difference between the fixed charge layer and diffused layer of opposite change is called electro-kinetic potential or zeta potential.

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