Scanning or desorption isotherms? Characterising sorption hysteresis of wood

Maria Fredriksson, Emil Engelund Thybring

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Sorption isotherms describe the relation between the equilibrium moisture content of a material and the ambient relative humidity. Most materials exhibits sorption hysteresis, that is, desorption give higher equilibrium moisture contents than absorption at equal ambient climate conditions. Sorption hysteresis is commonly evaluated by determination of an absorption isotherm followed by desorption starting from the highest relative humidity used in the absorption measurement (typically 95%). The latter is often interpreted as the desorption isotherm but is in fact a scanning isotherm, i.e. an isotherm obtained from neither dry nor water-saturated state. In the present study, we investigated the difference between desorption isotherms and scanning isotherms determined by desorption from different high relative humidity levels reached by absorption and how this difference influenced the evaluation of sorption hysteresis. The measurements were performed on Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) using automated sorption balances. Hysteresis evaluated from desorption isotherms gave linear absolute sorption hysteresis for the studied relative humidity range (0–96%), whereas hysteresis evaluated from scanning isotherms gave non-linear curves with a peak between 50 and 80% relative humidity. The position of this peak depended on the relative humidity from which desorption was initiated. Consequently, understanding and evaluation of sorption hysteresis might be challenging if scanning isotherms are used instead of desorption isotherms, hereby increasing the risk of misinterpreting the results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4477-4485
Issue number8
Early online date2018 Jun 13
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Aug

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Other Materials Engineering


  • Sorption isotherm
  • Scanning isotherm
  • Hysteresis
  • Automated sorption balance
  • Dynamic vapour sorption (DVS)
  • Moisture content


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