What’s the difference between absorption and adsorption and sorption?   Leave a comment

The terms absorption and adsorption are used freely to indicate the same process of taking moisture from the air using desiccants, mostly because we don’t want to complicate the explanation of what our product does. But there is a difference.

Absorption generally refers to two phenomena which are largely unrelated. In one case, it refers to when atoms, molecules, or ions enter some bulk phase – gas, liquid or solid material. For instance, a sponge absorbs water when it is dry.

Absorption also refers to the the process by which the energy of a photon is taken up by another entity, for example, by an atom whose valence electrons make transition between two electronic energy levels. The photon is destroyed in the process. The absorbed energy may be re-emitted as radiant energy or transformed into heat energy. The absorption of light during wave propagation is often called attenuation. The tools of spectroscopy in chemistry are based on the absorption of photons by atoms and molecules.

Adsorption is similar, but refers to a surface rather than a volume: adsorption is a process that occurs when a gas or liquid solute accumulates on the surface of a solid or, more rarely, a liquid (adsorbent), forming a molecular or atomic film (the adsorbate). It is different from absorption, in which a substance diffuses into a liquid or solid to form a solution.  This is what happens to calcium chloride desiccants in container shipments.

Sorption encompasses both processes, while desorption is the reverse process.

* Taken from Wikipedia.

Wikipedia: Absorption (chemistry)

Wikipedia: Absorption (light)

Wikipedia: Adsorption

Wikipedia: Sorption

 

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