Difference Between Adsorbent and Absorbent

Both of the terms refer to a ‘process’. Although the names sound similar and might look alike at first glance, the difference is extravagant. 


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To decipher in a layman language, we can cite the adsorbent as getting smacked by a cake on the face whereas absorbent as eating the cake.  

Adsorbent vs Absorbent

The difference between adsorbent and absorbent is that an adsorbent is a substance that absorbs another material. For example, if a solid absorbs gas, the gas becomes the adsorbate. While an absorbent is an energy that allows to soak up a substance. An example can be a cotton ball getting soaked in water.

Adsorbent vs Absorbent

The deposition of molecular species onto a surface is known as adsorbent. The adsorbent is the molecular species that gets adsorbed on the surface, and the adsorbate is the surface on which adsorption takes place.

Separation of inert gases, heterogeneous catalysis, removal of coloring matter from solution, and desiccation, etc. are few examples of adsorbents.

Absorption is the way of chemicals being absorbed or entered or taken into a solid or liquid body from the outside. The process involves bulk incorporation of turning a component into a solid material.

The cellulose sponge is an example. When the sponge comes into contact with water, it absorbs it and swells. 

Comparison Table

Parameters for comparisonAdsorbentAbsorbent
We can define the adsorbent as the contact of solids with either liquids or gases in which the mass transfer is towards the solid. 
A phenomenon or process that involves molecules, atoms, or atoms to undergo bulk phase for absorption is known as absorbent.
NatureIt is endothermic.It is exothermic.
TypesPhysical adsorption and chemi-sorption.There are various types of absorbents. Hazmat and reusable absorbent are one of them.
Effect of temperature The amount of solute adsorbed from a mixture reduces as the temperature rises at a constant pressure.Results in a decrease of temperature in aqueous glucose with an increase in temperature.
UsesDecolorizing, drying of lubricating oils, kerosene, and engine oils. Used in bandages, towels, bath mats, paper towels, 

What is Adsorbent?

We infer the system of liquid or gas molecules clasping the solid particles to the surface as adsorption. 

Substances are absorbed onto an adsorbent’s skin because the adsorbent contains unoccupied spaces that encourage particle attachment to the gaps.

In adsorption the surface’s energy drops, resulting in a decrease in the surface’s residual forces. The rate of adsorption continuously increases until they reach equilibrium. 

A variety of living and non-living systems use adsorption.

Adsorption is a mechanism that living systems like viruses use to attach to bacteria or other organisms. Adsorption chromatography, for example, uses the principle of adsorption to separate mixtures.

Ample adsorbent must have a wide surface area to allow significant amounts of other phases, such as gases and vapors, to accumulate. 

Application of adsorbent:

  1. In the gulp of the mines, miners use this capability to eliminate dangerous chemicals from the air they breathe.
  1. The adsorbent can filter water by eliminating harmful or carcinogenic colors, heavy metal cations, and organic contaminants.
  1. They are used as catalyst carriers in the industry for a range of chemical processes that are helpful in the industry.

What is Absorbent?

The term ‘absorbent’ is used in chemistry to describe a method of collecting and assimilation chemicals into a surface, such as a cell, or across tissues via diffusion or osmosis.

The absorbent’s overall energy increases after absorption due to endothermic.

Absorption has a constant rate throughout.

The absorption phenomenon is used by inhabiting systems such as unicellular organisms to take in nutrients and water. 

Refrigerators, for example, use absorption to keep their contents cold. It equally disperses the molecule throughout the body/medium during absorption.

Absorption is a mass transfer operation in which the liquid moves steadily upwards in volume while the gas moves downwards. 

When the temperature rises, gas molecules quickly migrate upwards, resulting in an extremely short contact duration between the liquid and gas phases.

How does absorption happen?

We can explain this with a sponge case.

Liquids can be absorbed in two ways: 

Physically and physicochemically. 

The first arises because of H-bonding between substance and water molecules with water. However, in the second, water is trapped in the material’s vacuum areas.

Because sponges have porous and cellular structures, abundant water can get trapped inside those empty areas.

Main Differences Between Adsorbent and Absorbent

  1. Adsorbed solutions are chemically weakly bound and require energy input to break the bonds. Whereas absorbed solutions require physical infiltration to limit the amount of solution.
  1. Adsorption is an exothermic process with a stable reaction rate that achieves equilibrium. Absorption is an endothermic process with a uniform reaction rate.
  1. The concentration of the adsorbed substance changes from the bulk to the bottom of the adsorbent in adsorption; however, the concentration of the absorbed substance does not change throughout the medium of absorption.
  1. Adsorption is more effective at lower temperatures. Absorption is unaffected by temperature.
  1. Air conditioning and water purification are examples of adsorption applications. Whereas cold storage, ice manufacturing, turbines, and refrigerants are examples of absorption applications.
Difference Between Adsorbent and Absorbent


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