We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the Tyndall Effect?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Tyndall effect occurs when particles within a colloid or suspension scatter the light that passes through. The intensity of the scattering is a direct result of the size of the colloidal particles; since they are roughly the size of a single wavelength of light, the Tyndall effect is much more intense than a similar effect known as Rayleigh scattering. The most common practical application of the effect is the detection of colloids and ultramicroscopic particles. The Tyndall effect can also be used to detect light that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.

A common Tyndall effect demonstration involves the creation of a clear colloid, such as water-based ones, inside a transparent glass. When a beam of light passes through the glass, the beam itself is clearly and visibly delineated within the colloid. This is a result of longer wavelengths passing through the substance while shorter wavelengths of light are scattered, reflecting the shorter light back to the viewer. In some cases, the scattering can alter the perceived color of a colloid. Flour mixed with water, for example, will appear blue when prepared as a colloid; the same effect is achieved in the irises of blue-eyed individuals.

The Tyndall effect can reliably be used to detect colloids, and by extension, small particles within the colloids. Conventional microscopes have difficulty capturing images of particles smaller than 0.1 micron in size, making it a challenge to determine whether or not a particular substance is a colloid or a true solution. If a beam of light scatters when passing through a clear substance, observers can confirm the presence of particles and determine that the substance is a colloid. This principle has led to the development of ultramicroscopes, which allow scientists to observe particles that are invisible even with the aid of a traditional microscope. The same test can be used to gather an idea of the size of the particles within the colloid and its density.

The effect can also be used to detect invisible light. Since the Tyndall effect scatters light of a shorter wavelength, it is possible to render infrared light visible by passing it through a colloid. This can be achieved by blowing smoke or another gaseous colloid onto a suspected area. The particles will scatter the shorter, visible red wavelengths, allowing observers to see a beam of red light. The beam will be most visible when viewed from an angle perpendicular to the light's path.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
By Oceana — On Oct 17, 2011

You can see the Tyndall effect when you shine your headlights into fog. If you have your high beams on, some of the light gets scattered and sent back to you, making it hard to see. If you have your low beams on, you can see the beam in the air.

I once witnessed this effect in a scary situation. I was driving home on New Year’s Eve night, and the fog was so thick that I could not see more than two feet in front of my car.

My headlights allowed me to see the fog and the beam, but this did not help me navigate very well. I just had to pay close attention to the stripes on the road, and no matter what, I could not turn my high beams on, because that would be like looking at a yellow wall.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.