Difference between Physical Adsorption and Chemical Adsorption

What are the major differences between Physical Adsorption and Chemical Adsorption?

Have you ever heard of adsorption? It’s the process of a substance sticking to the surface of another substance. There are two main types of adsorption: physical adsorption and chemical adsorption.

The main difference is that physical adsorption is a surface phenomenon while chemical adsorption involves a chemical reaction.

Before we move to the differences, let’s understand what are Physical Adsorption and Chemical Adsorption:

  • Physical Adsorption: Physical adsorption is the process of a gas, liquid, or solid sticking to the surface of a solid through physical forces.
  • Chemical Adsorption: Chemical adsorption is the process of a gas, liquid, or solid sticking to the surface of a solid through chemical bonds.

Physical Adsorption vs Chemical Adsorption

Now, let’s move to Physical Adsorption vs Chemical Adsorption:

Major differences between Physical Adsorption and Chemical Adsorption

Physical Adsorption Chemical Adsorption
Physical adsorption is a reversible process. Chemical adsorption is usually irreversible.
Physical adsorption occurs at low temperatures. Chemical adsorption occurs at high temperatures.
Physical adsorption is a weak process. Chemical adsorption is a strong process.
Physical adsorption is a physical interaction between the adsorbate and adsorbent. Chemical adsorption is a chemical interaction.
Physical adsorption is a surface phenomenon. Chemical adsorption involves a chemical reaction.

That’s it.

Note that sometimes, the question might also be asked as “distinguish between Physical Adsorption and Chemical Adsorption”.

Also see:

Final words

Physical adsorption and chemical adsorption are two ways in which a substance can adhere to the surface of another substance.

While physical adsorption occurs through physical forces at low temperatures, chemical adsorption involves a chemical reaction and occurs at high temperatures.

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