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Evaporation Rate


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Evaporation rate can be useful in evaluating the health and fire hazards of a material. For example, a substance with a high evaporation rate will readily form a vapor which could be inhaled or explode.

Evaporation rates generally have an inverse relationship to boiling points; i.e. the higher the boiling point, the lower the rate of evaporation.

The general reference material for evaporation rates is n-butyl acetate (commonly abbreviated BuAc) which has the chemical structure shown below. Whenever a relative evaporation rate is given, the reference material must be stated.

chemical structure of n-butyl acetate

The relative evaporation rate of butyl acetate is 1.0. Other materials are then classified as:

Evaporation Rate
(BuAc = 1.0)
> 3.0
Methyl Ethyl Ketone = 3.8
Acetone = 5.6
Hexane = 8.3.
0.8 to 3.0
95% Ethyl Alcohol = 1.4
Naphtha = 1.4
< 0.8
Xylene = 0.6
Isobutyl Alcohol = 0.6
Water = 0.3
Mineral Spirits = 0.1

We are not aware of a specific number for the absolute evaporation rate (i.e. in mass/time units) of butyl acetate. Presumably, such a number would depend on myriad variables such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, air flow, viscosity etc. The ASTM has developed a standard test method, D3539-87(2004) Standard Test Methods for Evaporation Rates of Volatile Liquids by Shell Thin-Film Evaporometer. We don't own a copy so we can't give you a synopsis of the variables involved.

In the absence of evaporation rate data, you can roughly assess the volatility using the vapor pressure of the material. A number of models are available in the scientific literature; see Further Reading below for some examples.

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Further Reading

See also: alcohol, boiling point, vapor pressure, volatility.

Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.

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