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evaporation, change of a liquid into vapor at any temperature below its boiling point. For example, water, when placed in a shallow open container exposed to air, gradually disappears, evaporating at a rate that depends on the amount of surface exposed, the humidity of the air, and the temperature. Evaporation occurs because among the molecules near the surface of the liquid there are always some with enough heat energy to overcome the cohesion of their neighbors and escape (see adhesion and cohesion; matter). At higher temperatures the number of energetic molecules is greater, and evaporation is more rapid. Evaporation is also increased by increasing the surface area of the liquid or by increasing the air circulation, thus carrying away the energetic molecules leaving the liquid before they can be slowed enough by collisions with air molecules to be reabsorbed into the liquid. If the air is humid some water molecules from the air will pass back into the liquid, thus reducing the rate of evaporation. An increase in atmospheric pressure also reduces evaporation. The process of evaporation is always accompanied by a cooling effect. For example, when a liquid evaporates from the skin, a cooling sensation results. The reason for this is that only the most energetic molecules of liquid are lost by evaporation, so that the average energy of the remaining molecules decreases; the surface temperature, which is a measure of this average energy, decreases also. Many refrigeration processes are based on this principle.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the concentration of solutions (most often, solutions of solids in water) by the partial vaporization of the solvent during boiling. During this process the concentration, density, viscosity, and boiling point of the solution are raised. In a supersaturated solution, the dissolved material precipitates out. The boiling point of the solutions is always higher than the boiling point of the solvents; the difference between them, called the temperature depression, grows with an increase in the concentration of the dissolved substance and in external pressure.

Evaporation is produced by the introduction of external heat. At temperatures lower than 200° C the heat carrier is water vapor; above 200° C, high-boiling liquids (diphenyl mixture, oil) and fuel gases. Heating takes place through the wall of the apparatus and, in very aggressive mediums, by bubbling gas through the solution or by atomizing the solution in a stream of gas.

Evaporation is carried out at atmospheric, decreased, or increased pressure. In most cases it is economically feasible to work under pressure greater than 0.1 meganewton per sq m (1 kilogram-force per sq cm), since it is then possible to use the secondary vapor for heating other apparatus. When working with thermally unstable substances, a vacuum evaporator is used: this makes it possible to lower the boiling points of the solutions and to decrease the heat surface (as a result of an increase in the temperature difference between the heating agent and the boiling solution). A vacuum is created in the apparatus by condensing the secondary vapor and drawing out the uncondensed air-vapor mixture with a vacuum pump.

Evaporation is used in the chemical and food industries, as well as in other branches of industry. There are more than 80 different steam-heated evaporation devices. In small-scale production, vertical and horizontal cylindrical evaporation devices heated by means of heating coils or jackets are usually used; in large-scale production there are devices with internal and outflow heating chambers; film devices, in which a stream of vapor draws up a thin film of solution, which creates favorable conditions for evaporation; and devices with forced circulation. The last are used when it is necessary to prevent the precipitation of salts on the heating surface, and also for the evaporation of viscous solutions.

In single-shell devices, 1.2-1.25 kg of heating vapor are required to evaporate 1 kg of water. Multishell devices, the most widely distributed of which is the direct-flow type, are much more economical. In this type of device the weak solution and the heating vapor, moving in the same direction, enter the evaporation devices consecutively. In the last device, which is linked to a barometric condenser and a vacuum pump, a partial vacuum is created; as a result of this, the pressure and boiling point of the solution gradually decrease from the first to the last casing. Because of this, a cross flow and evaporation of the solution are created upon heating by the secondary vapor. In reverse-flow devices the solution and the heating vapor move toward each other; in a parallel feed, the weak solution is simultaneously supplied to all casings.

In practice there are seldom more than five casings, since the useful temperature differential becomes very small upon further increase. In a three-shell device, 0.4 kg of heating vapor is required to evaporate 1 kg of water; in a five-shell device, 0.25-0.28 kg is required. Multishell evaporation de-vices are widely used in large-scale production requiring a large quantity of heating vapor (for example, in the production of sugar).


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the passage of a substance from the liquid or solid state of aggregation into the gaseous state (vapor). Evaporation is usually understood to mean the transition of a liquid to vapor that takes place on the free surface of the liquid.

The evaporation of solids is called volatilization or sublimation. As a result of the thermal motion of molecules, evaporation is possible at any temperature, but as the temperature rises—that is, as the intensity of the thermal motion of molecules increases—the rate of evaporation increases.

At a given constant temperature in a closed space or vessel, evaporation takes place until the space above the remaining liquid (or solid) is filled with saturated vapor. The saturation vapor pressure depends only on temperature and increases with it. The curve that depicts saturated vapor pressure as a function of temperature is called the equilibrium evaporation curve (see Figure 1). If the pressure of the saturated vapor that fills microscopic cavities in the liquid becomes equal to or somewhat greater than the pressure in the gaseous phase above the surface of the liquid, evaporation becomes boiling. The highest boiling temperature of a given substance is its critical temperature. The critical temperature and pressure define the critical point—the end point on the equilibrium evaporation curve. Beyond this point the coexistence in equilibrium of the two phases, liquid and vapor, is impossible.

Upon passing from a liquid into a vapor a molecule must overcome the forces of molecular cohesion in the liquid. The work against these forces (the work function) and the work against the external pressure of the vapor already formed are accomplished by means of the kinetic energy of the thermal motion of the molecules. The liquid is cooled as a result of evaporation. Therefore, for the process of evaporation to be isothermic, that is, for it to proceed at constant temperature, a certain amount of heat λ (joules per kg or joules per mole), called the heat of evaporation, must be imparted to each unit of mass of the substance. The heat of evaporation decreases with rising temperature, decreasing particularly rapidly near the critical point, at which it vanishes. The heat of evaporation is related to the derivative of the saturation vapor pressure with respect to temperature by the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, on the basis of which the numerical values of X for liquids are determined.

The rate of evaporation decreases sharply when a sufficiently strong film of a nonvolatile substance is applied to the surface of the liquid. The evaporation of a liquid takes place more slowly in a gaseous medium, such as air, than in rarefied space (a vacuum), since as a result of the collisions with gas molecules part of the vapor particles return once again to the liquid (condense).

Figure 1. Temperature dependence of the saturation vapor pressure of some liquids (the light circles are the critical points; the dark circles are the boiling points at atmospheric pressure)

Evaporation is one of the first-order phase transitions, which are characterized by a nonzero heat of phase transition. In the process that is the inverse of evaporation—that is, in the formation of a liquid phase from vapor (condensation)—the heat of evaporation is released.

Evaporation is used in technology as a means of purifying substances or separating liquid mixtures by distillation. It is the basis of steam power engineering, the operation of refrigeration units, and all processes used to dry materials.

Under natural conditions evaporation is the only means by which moisture is transferred from the oceans and dry land into the atmosphere; it is the main component of water circulation on earth.


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Vukalovich, M. P., and I. I. Novikov. Tekhnicheskaia termodinamika, 3rd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
Konstantinov, A. R. Isparenie v prirode.Leningrad, 1963.


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


Conversion of a liquid to the vapor state by the addition of latent heat.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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