Capillary Condensation

capillary condensation

[′kap·ə‚ler·ē ‚kän‚den′sā·shən]
(physical chemistry)
Condensation of an adsorbed vapor within the pores of the adsorbate.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Capillary Condensation


the condensation of vapor in the capillaries and microcracks of porous bodies or in the interstices between closely packed particles.

A necessary condition for capillary condensation is the wetting of the surface of the material (particles) by the liquid. Capillary condensation starts with the adsorption of vapor molecules by the condensation surface and the formation of liquid menisci. The pressure of the saturated vapor over concave menisci is, according to Kelvin’s equation, lower than the saturated vapor pressure p0 over a flat surface. Capillary condensation proceeds, therefore, at lower vapor pressures than the saturation pressure P0. The volume of liquid condensed in pores attains its limiting value at external vapor pressure p = p0, where the liquid-gas interface has zero curvature (plane, catenoid).

The complex capillary structure of a porous body may be the cause of capillary hysteresis, that is, the dependence of the quantity of liquid condensed in the pores not only on vapor pressure but also on the prehistory of the process, that is, how the given state was attained—by the condensation or by the evaporation of the liquid.

Capillary condensation increases the absorption (sorption) of vapors by porous bodies, particularly near the point of vapor saturation. The phenomenon of capillary condensation is used industrially in trapping liquids by finely porous materials (sorbents). Capillary condensation also has an important role in the processes of drying and moisture retention in soils, construction materials, and other porous materials.


Kurs fizicheskoi khimii, 2nd ed., vol. 1. Edited by Ia. I. Gerasimov. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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