Tyndall effect

The Tyndall effect is the scattering of light as a light beam passes through a colloid. The individual suspension particles scatter and reflect light, making the beam visible. The amount of scattering depends on the frequency of the light and density of the particles.

The Tyndall effect, also known as Tyndall scattering, is light scattering by particles in a colloid or else particles in a very fine suspension. It is named after the 19th-century physicist John Tyndall. It is similar to Rayleigh scattering, in that the intensity of the scattered light depends on the fourth power of the frequency, so blue light is scattered much more strongly than red light. An example in everyday life is the blue colour sometimes seen in the smoke emitted by motorcycles, in particular two-stroke machines where the burnt engine oil provides the particles.


The visible beam of headlights in fog is caused by the Tyndall effect. The water droplets scatter the light, making the headlight beams visible.