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Dispersed Phase vs. Dispersion Medium: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 27, 2023
Dispersed phase refers to the particles spread throughout a mixture, while dispersion medium is the substance in which these particles are dispersed.

Key Differences

The dispersed phase in a colloidal system is the component that consists of small particles or droplets distributed throughout another substance. In contrast, the dispersion medium is the substance in which these particles or droplets are distributed.
Particles in the dispersed phase can be solid, liquid, or gas, depending on the type of colloid. The dispersion medium, however, is typically a continuous phase of a different state, such as a liquid in which solid particles are dispersed.
The properties of a colloidal system are largely determined by the nature of the dispersed phase, such as its particle size and interaction with the dispersion medium. The dispersion medium, on the other hand, contributes to the stability and overall behavior of the colloid by interacting with the dispersed particles.
In many colloids, the dispersed phase is the minority component, whereas the dispersion medium is the majority component, giving the colloid its overall characteristics. However, the role of the dispersed phase is crucial in defining the colloid's specific properties, like color and viscosity.
Techniques like centrifugation and filtration can separate the dispersed phase from the dispersion medium, illustrating their distinct roles in a colloidal system. The interaction between the dispersed phase and dispersion medium can also be altered by changing temperature or adding substances that affect surface tension.

Comparison Chart


Particles distributed in another substance
Substance in which particles are distributed


Can be solid, liquid, or gas
Usually a continuous phase like liquid

Role in Colloids

Determines specific properties like color
Provides medium for dispersion and stability

Quantity in Mixture

Typically the minority component
Generally the majority component

Influence on System Behavior

Size and interaction define colloid's nature
Determines the overall behavior of colloid

Dispersed Phase and Dispersion Medium Definitions

Dispersed Phase

The minority component in a colloid.
The dispersed phase in fog is tiny water droplets.

Dispersion Medium

The continuous phase of a colloid.
In a foam, air serves as the dispersion medium.

Dispersed Phase

Dispersed elements in a heterogeneous mixture.
In a smoke, solid particles are the dispersed phase.

Dispersion Medium

The majority component in a colloidal system.
Gelatin is the dispersion medium in a fruit jelly.

Dispersed Phase

Particles distributed within a mixture.
In milk, fat globules form the dispersed phase.

Dispersion Medium

Medium providing stability and environment for dispersed phase.
In an emulsion like mayonnaise, oil is often the dispersion medium.

Dispersed Phase

Part of a colloid that is scattered throughout another substance.
In aerosols, the dispersed phase can be liquid droplets or solid particles.

Dispersion Medium

The substance in which particles are dispersed.
Water acts as the dispersion medium in saltwater.

Dispersed Phase

The phase of a colloid that consists of small particles.
In paint, pigment particles constitute the dispersed phase.

Dispersion Medium

Substance that holds the dispersed phase in a mixture.
In a suspension of mud in water, water is the dispersion medium.


Can the dispersed phase be a gas?

Yes, as in foams where gas is the dispersed phase.

What's an example of a liquid dispersion medium?

Water in a saltwater solution.

What is the dispersed phase?

It's the particles distributed within a mixture.

Does the dispersed phase determine the colloid's color?

Often, as in the case of paints.

How do you separate the dispersed phase from the medium?

Techniques like filtration or centrifugation.

Does the dispersed phase always consist of small particles?

Typically, but the size can vary.

What is the dispersion medium?

The substance in which these particles are dispersed.

Does the dispersed phase affect viscosity?

Yes, like in a suspension of mud in water.

What role does the dispersion medium play in emulsions?

It stabilizes and houses the dispersed phase.

Is the dispersed phase usually visible?

Often microscopic, but can be visible in some colloids.

How does the dispersion medium affect the shelf life of a colloid?

It can influence factors like spoilage and separation.

Is the dispersion medium always liquid?

Not always, it can be any state, like air in foam.

Can the dispersion medium be a solid?

Yes, as in certain types of gels.

How does temperature affect the dispersion medium?

It can alter its viscosity and interaction with the dispersed phase.

Can the roles of dispersed phase and medium interchange?

In some systems, under certain conditions.

How does particle size in the dispersed phase affect a colloid?

It influences properties like opacity and stability.

Can both components of a colloid be liquids?

Yes, as in oil-in-water emulsions.

Are colloids always homogeneous?

No, they can be heterogeneous, depending on the dispersed phase.

Is milk an example of a colloidal system?

Yes, with fat as the dispersed phase.

Does changing the dispersion medium alter the colloid's properties?

Yes, it can significantly change its characteristics.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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