Chemical Absorption

Last updated: January 4, 2019

What Does Chemical Absorption Mean?

Chemical absorption is a type of absorption, which is the process by which chemicals in one state become absorbed by chemicals in another state (e.g. gases absorbed by a liquid or solid).

Chemical absorption specifically refers to absorption caused by a chemical reaction between the absorbed and absorbing elements. The other type of absorption is physical absorption, in which a reaction does not occur as part of the absorption process. It is possible for chemical and physical absorption to coincide if the absorbed and absorbing substances contain multiple elements that interact differently with each other.

Chemical absorption is an important part of many industrial applications and is used as part of many occupational safety controls and monitoring tools.

Safeopedia Explains Chemical Absorption

Chemical absorption is a process that allows unwanted substances to be removed from their surroundings. This makes it useful for purifying chemical mixtures and preventing an unwanted chemical from entering a given environment. The use of chemical absorbents as a means of removing unwanted chemical substances is common within the processing industries. For instance, acid-gas removal in the petroleum industry relies on “scrubbers” that utilize chemical absorption.

Chemical scrubbers are a common environmental health and safety (EHS) tool for reducing the amount of pollutants associated with a substance to legal levels before it is emitted into the environment. In cases where a facility’s emergency system could force the release of hazardous gases, emergency relief valves may be fitted with scrubbing systems designed to reduce or eliminate toxins in the gas.

Chemical absorption is also used in cartridge gas masks. These masks are outfitted with chemical cartridges that remove a specific toxic substance from the air through a chemical reaction between the chemical in the cartridge and the target substance. A similar approach may also be used to clean hazardous spills or to eliminate a specific contaminant from an area.

Many tools for measuring the amount of chemical substance in an environment also rely on chemical absorption. If the reaction between two particular absorbing and absorbed chemicals is known to occur at a predictable rate, the amount of the target chemical in a given environment can be determined by measuring the amount of absorbing material to have reacted with the absorbed chemical after a specific length of exposure time.


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