Have you ever found those small paper pouches with ‘Silica Gel DO NOT EAT‘ written in big, bold letters? These little bead-filled packets are where most people first learn about silica gel. The beads are essentially porous sand beads.
These beads are able to pull moisture from the air as it moves and hold it inside themselves. They wick the humidity away in the air keeping the surroundings dry. That’s why you so often find them in candy packets, in your shoes, or holiday decorations. Keeping everything dry and away from mold, mildew, and plants is the job of this special material.
How Does It Work?
Silica, or silicon dioxide, is the same material commonly found in beach sand. The beads has millions of tiny holes to create a massive surface area on a tiny object. A little known science fact, is that the more surface area something has, the faster it absorbs heat and dissipates it, and the easier it is to stick to the surface.
The gel is able absorb about 40 percent of it’s weight in moisture, making a very efficient dehumidifier. As long as the air you want to keep dry can make contact with the beads, then it will keep the air dry and crisp.
The other major application of silica gel are in non-electric dehumidifiers. By creating an entrance to a set of gel beads that air can get to, the silica dehumidifier can absorb the humidity over a longer period of time. These are often placed in a set-and-forget manner for cars, RVs, gun safes, and sheds.
Where Does Silica Come From
Silica is a naturally occurring mineral solid. For many people, silica can be found in clay, quartz, sand, and most rocks. Silica gel on the other hand, appears in a familiar beaded form in small packets contained within dry goods, food, and some purchased items.
How is Silica Gel Made
Silica gel can be synthesized or processed in its natural form. Sodium silicate, sometimes called liquid glass, is processed to eventually produce gel, the dehydrated and colorless end product. The silica gel is formed into beads and coated with a vapor-permeable plastic. The result is a versatile dehumidifying agent.
Uses of Silica Gel
Silica gel has a high affinity for water. Mini dehumidifiers can use this gel to control moisture in many different areas. These dehumidifiers absorb environmental moisture until they are at capacity.
When this happens, they can simply be heated to reactivate their dehumidifying capabilities for further moisture control. The reusable nature makes mini humidifiers using silica gel a far more economical and versatile alternative to larger units that are less eco-friendly and not reusable.