aerosol dispenser, device designed to produce a fine spray of liquid or solid particles that can be suspended in a gas such as the atmosphere. The dispenser commonly consists of a container that holds under pressure the substance to be dispersed (e.g., paints, insecticides, medications, and hair sprays) and a liquefied gas propellant. When a valve is released, the propellant forces the substance through an atomizer and out of the dispenser in the form of a fine spray. These devices are more properly termed spray dispensers rather than aerosol dispensers because the particles of the dispersed substance are usually larger than the particles of a true aerosol (see colloid), such as a fog or a smoke. Freon was the most common aerosol propellant, but its use has been banned because it is believed to contribute to destruction of the ozone layer of the stratosphere; common propellants now include propane, butane, and other hydrocarbons.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.