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Absorption vs. Adsorption: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
"Absorption" refers to a process in which substances are taken into a volume, while "adsorption" is a process where substances adhere to a surface.
Absorption vs. Adsorption

Key Differences

Absorption involves a material being fully incorporated into another substance, like a sponge absorbing water. Adsorption entails substances adhering to the surface of a material, not being absorbed into its volume.
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Absorption is plants absorbing nutrients from the soil; chemicals being absorbed into the skin. Adsorption is activated charcoal adsorbing impurities; adsorption of gases on metal surfaces.
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Absorption is crucial in fields like pharmacology, environmental science, and chemical engineering. Adsorption is crucial in applications like water purification, air filtration, and catalysis.
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Absorption is often a chemical process involving energy changes and bond formations. Adsorption is primarily a physical process, involving surface interaction without deep chemical changes.
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Absorption results in a uniform mixture or solution; it is used in processes like drying and heating. Adsorption leads to the accumulation on surfaces; it is employed in sensors and coating technologies.
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Comparison Chart

Mechanism

Substances taken into volume
Substances adhere to surface
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Examples

Nutrient uptake by plants; skin absorbing cream
Activated charcoal filtering; gas adsorbed on metals
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Relevance

Pharmacology, environmental science
Water purification, air filtration
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Interaction

Chemical, involves energy changes
Physical, surface interaction
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Application

Drying, heating processes
Sensors, coatings
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Absorption and Adsorption Definitions

Absorption

Energy Consumption
Infrared absorption is used in thermal imaging.
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Adsorption

Catalysis
Catalysts work through the adsorption of reactants on their surface.
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Absorption

Chemical Process
Absorption of light leads to photosynthesis in plants.
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Adsorption

Surface Adherence
The adsorption of pollutants onto filter media cleans the air.
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Absorption

Mental Assimilation
His absorption in the book was complete.
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Adsorption

Cleaning Process
Oil spills are often contained through adsorption methods.
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Absorption

Integrating Information
Her absorption of the new language was rapid.
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Adsorption

Coating Technique
Adsorption is used in applying thin films in nanotechnology.
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Absorption

Physical Incorporation
A sponge's absorption of water is a common household example.
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Adsorption

Laboratory Technique
Adsorption chromatography separates substances based on surface interaction.
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Absorption

The act or process of absorbing or the condition of being absorbed.
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Adsorption

The accumulation of gases, liquids, or solutes on the surface of a solid or liquid.
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Absorption

A state of mental concentration.
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Adsorption

The adhesion of a liquid or gas on the surface of a solid material, forming a thin film on the surface.
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Absorption

The act or process of absorbing or of being absorbed as,
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Adsorption

The process by which molecules of a substance form a thin film on the surface of a solid. Distinguished from absorption, in which the foreign substance penetrates the body of the absorbing material.
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Absorption

(obsolete) engulfing; swallowing up, as of bodies or land.
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Adsorption

The accumulation of molecules of a gas to form a thin film on the surface of a solid
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Absorption

Assimilation; incorporation.
The absorption of a smaller tribe into a larger
The absorption of bodies in a whirlpool
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Absorption

The imbibing or reception by molecular or chemical action, of radiant energy; the process of being neutrons being absorbed by the nucleus; interception.
The absorption of light, heat, electricity, etc.
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Absorption

(meteorology) The process in which incident radiant energy is retained by a substance (such as an air mass) by conversion to some other form of energy (such as heat).
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Absorption

(physiology) in living organisms, the process by which the materials of growth and nutrition are absorbed and conveyed to the tissues and organs; taking in by various means, such as by osmosis.
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Absorption

Entire engrossment or occupation of the mind.
Absorption in some employment
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Absorption

Mental assimilation.
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Absorption

(electrical engineering) The retaining of electrical energy for a short time after it has been introduced to the dielectric.
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Absorption

The act or process of absorbing or sucking in anything, or of being absorbed and made to disappear; as, the absorption of bodies in a whirlpool, the absorption of a smaller tribe into a larger.
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Absorption

An imbibing or reception by molecular or chemical action; as, the absorption of light, heat, electricity, etc.
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Absorption

In living organisms, the process by which the materials of growth and nutrition are absorbed and conveyed to the tissues and organs.
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Absorption

Entire engrossment or occupation of the mind; as, absorption in some employment.
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Absorption

(chemistry) a process in which one substance permeates another; a fluid permeates or is dissolved by a liquid or solid
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Absorption

(physics) the process in which incident radiated energy is retained without reflection or transmission on passing through a medium;
The absorption of photons by atoms or molecules
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Absorption

The social process of absorbing one cultural group into harmony with another
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Absorption

The process of absorbing nutrients into the body after digestion
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Absorption

Complete attention; intense mental effort
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Absorption

The mental state of being preoccupied by something
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What factors affect adsorption?

Surface area, temperature, and pressure greatly influence adsorption.
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Is absorption important in pharmaceuticals?

Yes, drug absorption is crucial for medication effectiveness.
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Can absorption lead to saturation?

Yes, materials can reach a point where they can no longer absorb more of a substance.
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Is absorption a physical or chemical process?

Absorption can be both, depending on the context (e.g., physical in sponges, chemical in plants).
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What is an example of adsorption in daily life?

A common example is a water filter adsorbing impurities.
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How is absorption measured?

It's measured in terms of the amount of substance absorbed per unit volume or mass.
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How does adsorption differ from absorption in terms of surface interaction?

Adsorption involves molecules adhering to a surface, while absorption involves molecules being incorporated into the bulk of a material.
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Can adsorption be reversed?

Yes, adsorption is often reversible, which is useful in filtering and purification processes.
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How does absorption occur in the human body?

Nutrients and drugs are absorbed through the digestive tract and skin.
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Does adsorption involve a change in the adsorbed substance?

Typically, the substance doesn't chemically change; it's a surface phenomenon.
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Is there a role for adsorption in the development of sensors and coatings?

Yes, adsorption is used in technologies such as gas sensors and protective coatings to enhance surface properties.
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Is adsorption always desirable in industrial processes?

Not always; it can be undesirable in cases where it leads to material degradation.
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What is the result of absorption?

Absorption often results in the formation of a uniform mixture or solution.
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Can absorption be used for cooling?

Yes, absorption refrigeration is a process using heat to cool environments.
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What materials are commonly used for adsorption?

Activated charcoal and silica gel are common adsorbents.
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Can adsorption occur on various surfaces and materials?

Yes, adsorption can occur on the surfaces of solids, liquids, and even certain types of gases.
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Is absorption related to energy changes and bond formations?

Yes, absorption can involve energy changes and the formation of bonds between the absorbed substance and the absorbing material.
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Can absorption occur in gases, liquids, and solids?

gases, liquids, and solids.
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How does absorption differ from adsorption?

Absorption involves the complete incorporation of one substance into another, while adsorption is the adherence of substances to the surface of another material.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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