The Scottish chemist Thomas Graham discovered (1860) that certain substances (e.g., glue, gelatin, or starch) could be separated from certain other substances (e.g., sugar or salt) by dialysis. He gave the name colloid to substances that do not diffuse through a semipermeable membrane (e.g., parchment or cellophane) and the name crystalloid to those which do diffuse and which are therefore in true solution. Colloidal particles are larger than molecules but too small to be observed directly with a microscope; however, their shape and size can be determined by electron microscopy. In a true solution the particles of dissolved substance are of molecular size and are thus smaller than colloidal particles; in a coarse mixture (e.g., a suspension) the particles are much larger than colloidal particles. Although there are no precise boundaries of size between the particles in mixtures, colloids, or solutions, colloidal particles are usually on the order of 10 - 7 to 10 - 5 cm in size.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.