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Aerosol of microscopic water droplets suspended in the air above a cup of hot tea after the water vapor has sufficiently cooled and condensed. Water vapor is an invisible gas, but the clouds of condensed droplets refract and scatter the sunlight and are thus visible. Watervapor cup.jpg
Aerosol of microscopic water droplets suspended in the air above a cup of hot tea after the water vapor has sufficiently cooled and condensed. Water vapor is an invisible gas, but the clouds of condensed droplets refract and scatter the sunlight and are thus visible.
Droplets of water vapor in a pan. Condensation droplets.jpg
Droplets of water vapor in a pan.
Demonstration of evaporative cooling. When the sensor is dipped in ethanol and then taken out to evaporate, the instrument shows progressively lower temperature as the ethanol evaporates.
Rain evaporating after falling on hot pavement Misty road after rain.jpg
Rain evaporating after falling on hot pavement

Evaporation is a type of vaporization that occurs on the surface of a liquid as it changes into the gas phase. [1] High concentration of the evaporating substance in the surrounding gas significantly slows down evaporation, such as when humidity affects rate of evaporation of water. [2] When the molecules of the liquid collide, they transfer energy to each other based on how they collide. When a molecule near the surface absorbs enough energy to overcome the vapor pressure, it will escape and enter the surrounding air as a gas. [3] When evaporation occurs, the energy removed from the vaporized liquid will reduce the temperature of the liquid, resulting in evaporative cooling. [4]


On average, only a fraction of the molecules in a liquid have enough heat energy to escape from the liquid. The evaporation will continue until an equilibrium is reached when the evaporation of the liquid is equal to its condensation. In an enclosed environment, a liquid will evaporate until the surrounding air is saturated.

Evaporation is an essential part of the water cycle. The sun (solar energy) drives evaporation of water from oceans, lakes, moisture in the soil, and other sources of water. In hydrology, evaporation and transpiration (which involves evaporation within plant stomata) are collectively termed evapotranspiration. Evaporation of water occurs when the surface of the liquid is exposed, allowing molecules to escape and form water vapor; this vapor can then rise up and form clouds. With sufficient energy, the liquid will turn into vapor.


For molecules of a liquid to evaporate, they must be located near the surface, they have to be moving in the proper direction, and have sufficient kinetic energy to overcome liquid-phase intermolecular forces. [5] When only a small proportion of the molecules meet these criteria, the rate of evaporation is low. Since the kinetic energy of a molecule is proportional to its temperature, evaporation proceeds more quickly at higher temperatures. As the faster-moving molecules escape, the remaining molecules have lower average kinetic energy, and the temperature of the liquid decreases. This phenomenon is also called evaporative cooling. This is why evaporating sweat cools the human body. Evaporation also tends to proceed more quickly with higher flow rates between the gaseous and liquid phase and in liquids with higher vapor pressure. For example, laundry on a clothes line will dry (by evaporation) more rapidly on a windy day than on a still day. Three key parts to evaporation are heat, atmospheric pressure (determines the percent humidity), and air movement.

On a molecular level, there is no strict boundary between the liquid state and the vapor state. Instead, there is a Knudsen layer, where the phase is undetermined. Because this layer is only a few molecules thick, at a macroscopic scale a clear phase transition interface cannot be seen. [6]

Liquids that do not evaporate visibly at a given temperature in a given gas (e.g., cooking oil at room temperature) have molecules that do not tend to transfer energy to each other in a pattern sufficient to frequently give a molecule the heat energy necessary to turn into vapor. However, these liquids are evaporating. It is just that the process is much slower and thus significantly less visible.

Evaporative equilibrium

Vapor pressure of water vs. temperature. 760 Torr = 1 atm. Water vapor pressure graph.svg
Vapor pressure of water vs. temperature. 760  Torr = 1  atm.

If evaporation takes place in an enclosed area, the escaping molecules accumulate as a vapor above the liquid. Many of the molecules return to the liquid, with returning molecules becoming more frequent as the density and pressure of the vapor increases. When the process of escape and return reaches an equilibrium, [5] the vapor is said to be "saturated", and no further change in either vapor pressure and density or liquid temperature will occur. For a system consisting of vapor and liquid of a pure substance, this equilibrium state is directly related to the vapor pressure of the substance, as given by the Clausius–Clapeyron relation:

where P1, P2 are the vapor pressures at temperatures T1, T2 respectively, ΔHvap is the enthalpy of vaporization, and R is the universal gas constant. The rate of evaporation in an open system is related to the vapor pressure found in a closed system. If a liquid is heated, when the vapor pressure reaches the ambient pressure the liquid will boil.

The ability for a molecule of a liquid to evaporate is based largely on the amount of kinetic energy an individual particle may possess. Even at lower temperatures, individual molecules of a liquid can evaporate if they have more than the minimum amount of kinetic energy required for vaporization.

Factors influencing the rate of evaporation

Note: Air is used here as a common example of the surrounding gas; however, other gases may hold that role.

Concentration of the substance evaporating in the air
If the air already has a high concentration of the substance evaporating, then the given substance will evaporate more slowly.
Flow rate of air
This is in part related to the concentration points above. If "fresh" air (i.e., air which is neither already saturated with the substance nor with other substances) is moving over the substance all the time, then the concentration of the substance in the air is less likely to go up with time, thus encouraging faster evaporation. This is the result of the boundary layer at the evaporation surface decreasing with flow velocity, decreasing the diffusion distance in the stagnant layer.
The amount of minerals dissolved in the liquid
Inter-molecular forces
The stronger the forces keeping the molecules together in the liquid state, the more energy one must get to escape. This is characterized by the enthalpy of vaporization.
Evaporation happens faster if there is less exertion on the surface keeping the molecules from launching themselves.
Surface area
A substance that has a larger surface area will evaporate faster, as there are more surface molecules per unit of volume that are potentially able to escape.
Temperature of the substance
the higher the temperature of the substance the greater the kinetic energy of the molecules at its surface and therefore the faster the rate of their evaporation.

In the US, the National Weather Service measures, at various outdoor locations nationwide, the actual rate of evaporation from a standardized "pan" open water surface. Others do likewise around the world. The US data is collected and compiled into an annual evaporation map. The measurements range from under 30 to over 120 inches (3,000 mm) per year.

Because it typically takes place in a complex environment, where 'evaporation is an extremely rare event', the mechanism for the evaporation of water is not completely understood. Theoretical calculations require prohibitively long and large computer simulations. 'The rate of evaporation of liquid water is one of the principal uncertainties in modern climate modeling.' [7] [8]


Evaporation is an endothermic process, since heat is absorbed during evaporation.


Combustion vaporization

Fuel droplets vaporize as they receive heat by mixing with the hot gases in the combustion chamber. Heat (energy) can also be received by radiation from any hot refractory wall of the combustion chamber.

Pre-combustion vaporization

Internal combustion engines rely upon the vaporization of the fuel in the cylinders to form a fuel/air mixture in order to burn well. The chemically correct air/fuel mixture for total burning of gasoline has been determined to be 15 parts air to one part gasoline or 15/1 by weight. Changing this to a volume ratio yields 8000 parts air to one part gasoline or 8,000/1 by volume.

Film deposition

Thin films may be deposited by evaporating a substance and condensing it onto a substrate, or by dissolving the substance in a solvent, spreading the resulting solution thinly over a substrate, and evaporating the solvent. The Hertz–Knudsen equation is often used to estimate the rate of evaporation in these instances.

See also

Phase transitions of matter ()
Solid Liquid Gas Plasma
Solid Melting Sublimation
Liquid Freezing Vaporization
Gas Deposition Condensation Ionization
Plasma Recombination

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boiling point</span> Temperature at which a substance changes from liquid into vapor

The boiling point of a substance is the temperature at which the vapor pressure of a liquid equals the pressure surrounding the liquid and the liquid changes into a vapor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phase (matter)</span> Region of uniform physical properties

In the physical sciences, a phase is a region of space, throughout which all physical properties of a material are essentially uniform. Examples of physical properties include density, index of refraction, magnetization and chemical composition. A simple description is that a phase is a region of material that is chemically uniform, physically distinct, and (often) mechanically separable. In a system consisting of ice and water in a glass jar, the ice cubes are one phase, the water is a second phase, and the humid air is a third phase over the ice and water. The glass of the jar is another separate phase.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vapor</span> Substances in the gas phase at a temperature lower than its critical point

In physics, a vapor or vapour is a substance in the gas phase at a temperature lower than its critical temperature, which means that the vapor can be condensed to a liquid by increasing the pressure on it without reducing the temperature of the vapor. A vapor is different from an aerosol. An aerosol is a suspension of tiny particles of liquid, solid, or both within a gas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Enthalpy of vaporization</span> Energy to convert a liquid substance to a gas at a given pressure

In thermodynamics, the enthalpy of vaporization, also known as the (latent) heat of vaporization or heat of evaporation, is the amount of energy (enthalpy) that must be added to a liquid substance to transform a quantity of that substance into a gas. The enthalpy of vaporization is a function of the pressure at which the transformation takes place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vapor pressure</span> Pressure exerted by a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium

Vapor pressure is defined as the pressure exerted by a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium with its condensed phases at a given temperature in a closed system. The equilibrium vapor pressure is an indication of a liquid's thermodynamic tendency to evaporate. It relates to the balance of particles escaping from the liquid in equilibrium with those in a coexisting vapor phase. A substance with a high vapor pressure at normal temperatures is often referred to as volatile. The pressure exhibited by vapor present above a liquid surface is known as vapor pressure. As the temperature of a liquid increases, the attractive interactions between liquid molecules become less significant in comparison to the entropy of those molecules in the gas phase, increasing the vapor pressure. Thus, liquids with strong intermolecular interactions are likely to have smaller vapor pressures, with the reverse true for weaker interactions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Condensation</span> Condensation is the change of state of matter from a gas phase into a liquid phase.

Condensation is the change of the state of matter from the gas phase into the liquid phase, and is the reverse of vaporization. The word most often refers to the water cycle. It can also be defined as the change in the state of water vapor to liquid water when in contact with a liquid or solid surface or cloud condensation nuclei within the atmosphere. When the transition happens from the gaseous phase into the solid phase directly, the change is called deposition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Humidity</span> Concentration of water vapour present in the air

Humidity is the concentration of water vapor present in the air. Water vapor, the gaseous state of water, is generally invisible to the human eye. Humidity indicates the likelihood for precipitation, dew, or fog to be present.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dew point</span> Temperature at which air becomes saturated with water vapour during a cooling process

The dew point is the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor, assuming constant air pressure and water content. When cooled below the dew point, moisture capacity is reduced and airborne water vapor will condense to form liquid water known as dew. When this occurs via contact with a colder surface, dew will form on that surface.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Water vapor</span> Gaseous phase of water

Water vapor, water vapour or aqueous vapor is the gaseous phase of water. It is one state of water within the hydrosphere. Water vapor can be produced from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water or from the sublimation of ice. Water vapor is transparent, like most constituents of the atmosphere. Under typical atmospheric conditions, water vapor is continuously generated by evaporation and removed by condensation. It is less dense than most of the other constituents of air and triggers convection currents that can lead to clouds and fog.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Latent heat</span> Thermodynamic phase transition energy

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Heat transfer</span> Transport of thermal energy in physical systems

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vaporization</span> Transition of a liquid to vapor

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dehumidifier</span> Device which reduces humidity

A dehumidifier is an air conditioning device which reduces and maintains the level of humidity in the air. This is done usually for health or thermal comfort reasons, or to eliminate musty odor and to prevent the growth of mildew by extracting water from the air. It can be used for household, commercial, or industrial applications. Large dehumidifiers are used in commercial buildings such as indoor ice rinks and swimming pools, as well as manufacturing plants or storage warehouses. Typical air conditioning systems combine dehumidification with cooling, by operating cooling coils below the dewpoint and draining away the water that condenses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Heat pipe</span> Heat-transfer device that employs phase transition

A heat pipe is a heat-transfer device that employs phase transition to transfer heat between two solid interfaces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Evaporative cooler</span> Device that cools air through the evaporation of water

An evaporative cooler is a device that cools air through the evaporation of water. Evaporative cooling differs from other air conditioning systems, which use vapor-compression or absorption refrigeration cycles. Evaporative cooling exploits the fact that water will absorb a relatively large amount of heat in order to evaporate. The temperature of dry air can be dropped significantly through the phase transition of liquid water to water vapor (evaporation). This can cool air using much less energy than refrigeration. In extremely dry climates, evaporative cooling of air has the added benefit of conditioning the air with more moisture for the comfort of building occupants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Psychrometrics</span> Study of gas-vapor mixtures

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Superheated steam</span> Steam whose temperature can be decreased without immediately condensing

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crystallization</span> Process by which a solid with a highly organized atomic or molecular structure forms

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Absorption refrigerator</span> Heat-source powered

An absorption refrigerator is a refrigerator that uses a heat source to provide the energy needed to drive the cooling process. The system uses two coolants, the first of which performs evaporative cooling and is then absorbed into the second coolant; heat is needed to reset the two coolants to their initial states. The principle can also be used to air-condition buildings using the waste heat from a gas turbine or water heater. Using waste heat from a gas turbine makes the turbine very efficient because it first produces electricity, then hot water, and finally, air-conditioning—trigeneration. Absorption refrigerators are commonly used in recreational vehicles (RVs), campers, and caravans because the heat required to power them can be provided by a propane fuel burner, by a low-voltage DC electric heater or by a mains-powered electric heater. Unlike more common vapor-compression refrigeration systems, an absorption refrigerator has no moving parts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vapor-compression refrigeration</span> Refrigeration process

Vapour-compression refrigeration or vapor-compression refrigeration system (VCRS), in which the refrigerant undergoes phase changes, is one of the many refrigeration cycles and is the most widely used method for air conditioning of buildings and automobiles. It is also used in domestic and commercial refrigerators, large-scale warehouses for chilled or frozen storage of foods and meats, refrigerated trucks and railroad cars, and a host of other commercial and industrial services. Oil refineries, petrochemical and chemical processing plants, and natural gas processing plants are among the many types of industrial plants that often utilize large vapor-compression refrigeration systems. Cascade refrigeration systems may also be implemented using two compressors.


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Further reading

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