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Tyndall effect


The Tyndall effect is the effect of light scattering on particles in colloid systems, such as suspensions or emulsions. It is named after the 19th century UK scientist John Tyndall. The Tyndall effect is used to tell the difference between the different types of mixtures, namely solution, colloid, and suspension. For example, the Tyndall effect is noticeable when car headlamps are used in fog. The light with shorter wavelengths scatters better, thus the color of scattered light has a bluish tint. This is also the reason why the sky looks blue when viewed away from the sun: the blue light from the sun is scattered to a greater degree and is therefore visible far from its source.

This effect occurs because short wavelengths of light towards the blue end of the spectrum hit the air molecules in the earth's atmosphere and are reflected down to the earth's surface. Longer wavelengths towards the red end of the spectrum are less affected by the particles and pass on through the earth's atmosphere.

Blue light scatters more readily than does red light. At sunset the pathlength of the light through the atmosphere is larger than at any other time of day, and is sufficiently long that the blue components of the light have undergone multiple scattering events such that the intensity at such a great viewing distance is minimal. Due to the prolonged pathlength, the red light shows obvious scattering effects as observed by the sky appearing different hues of red. The red light is visible only at such great distances through the atmosphere because it is less affected (scattered) by the particles of air than the blue light, which is no longer visible.

Rayleigh scattering is commonly referred to, in introductory physics text books, as what is described here as the Tyndall effect.

See also

  • John Tyndall
  • Rayleigh scattering
  • Diffuse sky radiation (Why is the sky blue?)
  • Brownian motion, physical phenomenon where minute particles immersed in a fluid move about randomly.
  • Crepuscular rays
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tyndall_effect". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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