Last week, as I was reflecting on a recent moisture content problem, I recalled our series “Loss-on Drying and Other Moisture Mysteries.” In that series I examined moisture chemistry in products. However, I did little to define moisture content.
CSC Scientific Blog
The other day, I woke up with a lingering quandary: Are the concepts of
Moisture Content and Water Activity the same thing?
As usual, I’ve decided to take on the task of clarifying the difference. I hope I pull it off.
From the perspective of someone who supplies instruments that measure moisture content, water activity has not been a primary consideration. However, I believe that comparison and contrast of these important concepts will be useful.
“Why are my Moisture Test results inconsistent?”
That is an issue for many of you who test for moisture. We discussed the complexities and multiplicity of issues involved with moisture content determination in our “Loss-on Drying Moisture Analysis and other Moisture Mysteries” series.
In addition to intrinsic properties of test samples that may adversely affect moisture testing systems, automatic equipment parameter set-up, operator oversights and sample handling contribute to seemingly intractable moisture test result inaccuracies.
Just over six months ago, I began this journey explaining the simplest approach to measuring or determining moisture: Loss-on Drying. Little did I know how involved and esoteric it would become.
This voyage has taken me down mysterious paths through spooky theories, back to age-old chemistry concepts and into the vagaries of thermodynamics related to evaporation, vapor pressure, bound water and water activity. I have come full-circle; back to explaining Loss-on Drying -- a form of drying that I had assumed would be the simplest of all.
I thought the first four topics [evaporation, vapor pressure, bound moisture, water activity] were tough, complex, confounding and less-than-obvious. Drying -- defined as “the mass-transfer process of removing water (or other solute) by evaporation from a solid, semi solid or liquid” -- seemed easy.
As is often the case, reality makes “easy” a non-operative word. Such has turned out to be so with respect to the issue of drying.
In my previous missive about Loss-On drying, we discussed Vapor Pressure -- because logically it was next. As we continue to explore moisture, we learn how vital vapor pressure is when regarding the quirky issues of free and bound water.
One quiet night, I was musing over moisture analysis and how easy it is to do using loss-on drying. Little did I know what was in store.
Most of us think about measuring moisture by...
- Drying the material and measure the weight loss
- Using a calibration and electronic instrument
- Using a titration method such as Karl Fischer
When using these processes, we take for granted that the results will be the product's actual moisture.