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Zsigmondy, Richard Adolf

colloidal solutions colloid sols

[ zhig mondee] (1865–1929) Austrian colloid chemist; the inventor of the ultramicroscope.

After studying chemistry and physics Zsigmondy joined the Schott glassworks at Jena; it was through his interest in coloured glass that his work on colloids began, and this was continued through his career as a professor at Göttingen. In 1903 he made an ‘ultramicroscope’ in which the sample is strongly lit from one side against a dark background. This allowed colloid particles to be seen as points of light, even if they were smaller than the resolving power of the microscope. Such studies were of great value before the introduction of the ultracentrifuge and the electron microscope. Zsigmondy examined many colloidal solutions (especially gold sols), deduced particle sizes and concluded that the particles are kept apart by electrostatic charge. Colloidal solutions are of great importance in biochemistry. His pioneer studies did much to advance understanding of sols, gels, smokes, fogs and foams, and he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1925 for his work.

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