Class 12 Chemistry Surface Chemistry Mechanism of Adsorption

Mechanism of Adsorption

  • Adsorption occurs because the particle on the surface and the particle in the bulk of the adsorbent are not in the same environment. That is, the net force acting on them is not the same.
  • The particle on the surface has unbalanced forces acting on it which are also called residual attractive forces
  • Due to these forces, the surface particles of the adsorbent attract the adsorbate particles


  • During adsorption, there is always a decrease in the residual attractive forces of the surface. That is, the energy of the surface decreases and this appears as heat. This is called the heat of adsorption
  • The amount of heat evolved when one mole of adsorbate is adsorbed on the adsorbent surface is called enthalpy of adsorption
  • Adsorption is always exothermic and the enthalpy change, ΔH is always negative
  • When the adsorbate molecules are adsorbed on the surface of the adsorbent, their freedom of movement becomes restricted and hence ΔS the entropy decreases
  • We know that Gibbs free energy,ΔG= ΔH –TΔS.

For adsorption to be spontaneous, ΔG must be negative. This can happen if ΔH has a significantly high negative value as –TΔS is positive.

  • As the adsorption continues, ΔH becomes less and less negative till it becomes equal to TΔS and ΔG becomes zero. At this point, equilibrium is attained.

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