Emulsions vs. Dispersions: What is the Difference?

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Deb Shechter
Jan 10, 2017
min read
Emulsions vs. Dispersions: What is the Difference?

Homogenization is the process of reducing particle size of molecules to aid in more efficient and higher quality emulsions and dispersions. This technique is used across numerous industries: pharmaceutical, biotech, cosmetic, drug, and food. However, before you begin your search for the right homogenizer to perform the task at hand, it is important to understand the world of emulsions and dispersions: what are they? How are they created? What are the differences between them? Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences between the two. Continue reading to learn more about dispersions and emulsions and how to choose the correct homogenizer for your industry’s needs.


An emulsion is defined as a heterogeneous system consisting of two liquids that are incapable of being mixed together. One example of a possible emulsion would be a mixture of oil and water – two immiscible liquids. To prevent the liquids from separating out – as they tend to do – a third liquid, called a surfactant, is added. The surfactant works to prevent the liquids from separating, and allows one liquid to be evenly dispersed into the other. When oil is the liquid that is dispersed, the emulsion is classified as an oil-in-water emulsion. Conversely, when water is the liquid that is dispersed, the emulsion is known as a water-in-oil dispersion.


Dispersions are also known as suspensions, and consist of solid particles – ranging anywhere from 0.001 micrometers to 1 micrometer -- distributed evenly throughout a continuous medium. Examples of dispersions include ink, dyes, and even food items, like barbecue sauce. While the process of dispersing is often referred to as grinding or milling, no particle grinding actually occurs. Instead, equipment like colloid mills, sand mills, or high pressure homogenizers are used to create dispersions.

Choosing the Right Homogenizer for your Needs

When creating a dispersion or emulsion for your industry’s application, it is important to choose a high quality homogenizer. A good high pressure homogenizer uses a large amount of energy to create emulsions, which means that less surfactant is needed to get the job done.  Similarly, when creating dispersions, high pressure homogenizers are highly efficient at creating very small particle sizes.

Pion's BEE Brand Homogenizers

Pion has a number of high quality homogenizers to meet the needs of your industry. Our homogenizers work for virtually every setting, including laboratories, pilot plants, and industrial production. Contact us today to learn more about how our high pressure homogenizers can meet your specialized needs.

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