Henry adsorption constant

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The Henry adsorption constant is the constant appearing in the linear adsorption isotherm, which formally resembles Henry's law; therefore, it is also called Henry's adsorption isotherm. It is named after British chemist William Henry. This is the simplest adsorption isotherm in that the amount of the surface adsorbate is represented to be proportional to the partial pressure of the adsorptive gas:[1]

X = K_H P


  • X - surface coverage,
  • P - partial pressure,
  • KH - Henry's adsorption constant.

For solutions, concentrations, or activities, are used instead of the partial pressures.

The linear isotherm can be used to describe the initial part of many practical isotherms. It is typically taken as valid for low surface coverages, and the adsorption energy being independent of the coverage (lack of inhomogeneities on the surface).

The Henry adsorption constant can be defined as:[2]

K_H = \lim_{\varrho\rightarrow 0} \frac{\varrho_s}{\varrho(z)},


  •  \varrho(z) is the number density at free phase,
  •  \varrho_s is the surface number density,

Application at a permeable wall[2][edit]

If a solid body is modeled by a constant field and the structure of the field is such that it has a penetrable core, then

 K_H =  \int\limits_{-\infty}^{x'} \big [ \exp(-\beta u) - \exp(-\beta u_0) \big ] dx  
 - \int\limits_{x'}^{\infty} \big [ 1 - \exp(-\beta u) \big ] dx.

Here  x' is the position of the dividing surface,  u = u(x) is the external force field, simulating a solid,  u_0 is the field value deep in the solid,  \beta = 1/ k_B T,  k_B is the Boltzmann constant, and  T is the temperature.

Introducing "the surface of zero adsorption"

x_0 = - \int\limits_{-\infty}^{0} \widetilde{\theta}(x) dx + \int\limits_{0}^{\infty} \widetilde{\varphi}(x) dx,


\widetilde{\theta} = \frac{\exp {(- \beta u)} - \exp {(- \beta u_0)}}{1 - \exp {(- \beta u_0)}}


\widetilde{\varphi} = \frac{1 - \exp {(- \beta u)} }{1 - \exp {(- \beta u_0)}},

we get

K_H(x') = [x' - x_0(T)][1 - \exp(-\beta u_0)]

and the problem of  K_H determination is reduced to the calculation of  x_0 .

Taking into account that for Henry absorption constant we have

k_H = \lim_{\varrho\rightarrow 0} \frac{\varrho(z')}{\varrho(z)} = \exp(-\beta u_0),

where  \varrho(z') is the number density inside the solid, we arrive at the parametric dependence

K_H =  \int\limits_{-\infty}^{x'}\big [ k_H^{ \widetilde{u}(x)} - k_H\big ] dx - \int\limits_{x'}^{\infty}\big [ 1 - k_H^{\widetilde{u}(x)}\big ] dx


\widetilde{u}(x) = \frac{u(x)}{u_0}.

Application at a static membrane[2][edit]

If a static membrane is modeled by a constant field and the structure of the field is such that it has a penetrable core and vanishes when  x = \pm\infty , then

 K_H =  \int\limits_{-\infty}^{\infty} \big [ \exp(-\beta u) - 1 \big ] dx.

We see that in this case the  K_H sign and value depend on the potential  u and temperature only.

Application at an impermeable wall[3][edit]

If a solid body is modeled by a constant hard-core field, then

 K_H =  \int\limits_{-\infty}^{x'}  \exp(-\beta u) dx   - \int\limits_{x'}^{\infty} \big [ 1 - \exp(-\beta u) \big ] dx,


K_H(x') = x' - x_0(T),


x_0 = - \int\limits_{-\infty}^{0} \theta(x) dx + \int\limits_{0}^{\infty} \varphi(x) dx.


\theta = \exp {(- \beta u)}

\varphi = 1 - \exp {(- \beta u)}.

For the hard solid potential

x_0 = x_{step},

where  x_{step} is the position of the potential discontinuity. So, in this case

K_H(x') = x' - x_{step}.

Choice of the dividing surface[2][3][edit]

The choice of the dividing surface, strictly speaking, is arbitrary, however, it is very desirable to take into account the type of external potential  u(x) . Otherwise, these expressions are at odds with the generally accepted concepts and common sense.

First,  x' must lie close to the transition layer (i.e., the region where the number density varies), otherwise it would mean the attribution of the bulk properties of one of the phase to the surface.

Second. In the case of weak adsorption, for example, when the potential is close to the stepwise, it is logical to choose  x' close to  x_0 . (In some cases, choosing  x_0\pm R , where  R is particle radius, excluding the "dead" volume.)

In the case of pronounced adsorption it is advisable to choose  x' close to the right border of the transition region. In this case all particles from the transition layer will be attributed to the solid, and  K_H is always positive. Trying to put  x' = x_0 in this case will lead to a strong shift of  x' to the solid body domain, which is clearly unphysical.

Conversely, if  u_0 < 0 (fluid on the left), it is advisable to choose  x' lying on the left side of the transition layer. In this case the surface particles once again refer to the solid and  K_H is back positive.

Thus, except in the case of static membrane, we can always avoid the "negative adsorption" for one-component systems.


  1. ^ H. Yıldırım Erbil, "Surface Chemistry of Solid And Liquid Interfaces", Blackwell Publishing, 2006.(google books)
  2. ^ a b c d Zaskulnikov V. M., Statistical mechanics of fluids at a permeable wall: arXiv:1111.0082
  3. ^ a b Zaskulnikov V. M., Statistical mechanics of fluids at an impermeable wall: arXiv:1005.1063