What are Desiccants?

By Delta Adsorbents on 4/23/2019

A desiccant is a hygroscopic material that serves to maintain a state of dryness.  It is the opposite of a humectant which serves to promote moisture retention.  Desiccants eliminate humidity from the air and create and sustain a moisture-free environment.

Moist, damp environments can result in damage to electronics, apparel, cosmetics, medications and vitamins, along with a wide range of other products. Moisture creates an environment prone to bacteria, mold and fungus, and degradation.   Moisture in electronics can result in permanent damage and corrosion.  With the use of desiccants, this damage can be prevented.

Desiccants are frequently found in packaging for products that could compromised by humidity and moisture. But desciaants are also included in other areas where moisture could be problematic. One example is in insulated windows and sound-proof glass where multiple panes of glass are sandwiched together with a small space remaining between the panes to serve as an insulator. If moisture penetrates this gap, condensation can result in fogging and obstructed views. Window manufacturers place a small amount of desiccant between the panes of glass to absorb moisture and humidity in the enclosed space to keep the windows condensation and fog-free.

Desiccant packets are commonly found in consumer products ranging from shoeboxes to vitamins. These tiny silica gel packets or small cylindrical canisters that you find in the packaging are desiccants. There are a wide range of substances that can be used as a desiccant. Some of the most common desiccants include:

  • Silica gel (typically found in small “bead” form)
  • Activated charcoal
  • Calcium chloride
  • Charcoal sulfate
  • Activated alumina
  • Montmorillonite clay
  • Molecular sieve

Many desiccants can serve multiple purposes. For instance, activated charcoal doesn't just serve as a desiccant but can also eliminates odors. Silica gel beads can come in a moisture-indicating variety that changes color if the packet comes in contact with a significant amount of moisture.  Desiccants can also be used in filter-like breathers that serve to prevent contamination.

Specialty-blended desiccants can also be tailored to serve very specific functions. Desiccants have a wide range of applications in industry, manufacturing and beyond.  At Delta Adsorbents, we can help you select the right desiccant for your application.  Contact us today!

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