A gel is a semi-solid that can have properties ranging from soft and weak to hard and tough. Gels are defined as a substantially dilute cross-linked system, which exhibits no flow when in the steady-state, although the liquid phase may still diffuse through this system. A gel has been defined phenomenologically as a soft, solid or solid-like material consisting of two or more components, one of which is a liquid, present in substantial quantity. By weight, gels are mostly liquid, yet they behave like solids because of a three-dimensional cross-linked network within the liquid. It is the crosslinking within the fluid that gives a gel its structure and contributes to the adhesive stick. In this way, gels are a dispersion of molecules of a liquid within a solid medium. The word gel was coined by 19th-century Scottish chemist Thomas Graham by clipping from gelatine. The process of forming a gel is called gelation.

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