Gas adsorption and desorption effects on cylinders and their importance for long-term gas records

Leuenberger, Markus; Schibig, M. F.; Nyfeler, P. (2015). Gas adsorption and desorption effects on cylinders and their importance for long-term gas records. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT), 8(12), pp. 5289-5299. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/amt-8-5289-2015

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It is well known that gases adsorb on many surfaces, in particular metal surfaces. There are two main forms responsible for these effects (i) physisorption and (ii) chemisorption. Physisorption is associated with lower binding energies in the order of 1–10 kJ mol−¹, compared to chemisorption which ranges from 100 to 1000 kJ mol−¹. Furthermore, chemisorption only forms monolayers, contrasting physisorption that can form multilayer adsorption. The reverse process is called desorption and follows similar mathematical laws; however, it can be influenced by hysteresis effects. In the present experiment, we investigated the adsorption/desorption phenomena on three steel and three aluminium cylinders containing compressed air in our laboratory and under controlled conditions in a climate chamber, respectively. Our observations from completely decanting one steel and two aluminium cylinders are in agreement with the pressure dependence of physisorption for CO₂, CH₄, and H₂O. The CO₂ results for both cylinder types are in excellent agreement with the pressure dependence of a monolayer adsorption model. However, mole fraction changes due to adsorption on aluminium (< 0.05 and 0 ppm for CO₂ and H₂O) were significantly lower than on steel (< 0.41 ppm and about < 2.5 ppm, respectively). The CO₂ amount adsorbed (5.8 × 1019 CO₂ molecules) corresponds to about the fivefold monolayer adsorption, indicating that the effective surface exposed for adsorption is significantly larger than the geometric surface area. Adsorption/desorption effects were minimal for CH₄ and for CO but require further attention since they were only studied on one aluminium cylinder with a very low mole fraction. In the climate chamber, the cylinders were exposed to temperatures between −10 and +50 °C to determine the corresponding temperature coefficients of adsorption. Again, we found distinctly different values for CO₂, ranging from 0.0014 to 0.0184 ppm °C−¹ for steel cylinders and −0.0002 to −0.0003 ppm °C−¹ for aluminium cylinders. The reversed temperature dependence for aluminium cylinders points to significantly lower desorption energies than for steel cylinders and due to the small values, they might at least partly be influenced by temperature, permeation from/to sealing materials, and gas-consumption-induced pressure changes. Temperature coefficients for CH₄, CO, and H₂O adsorption were, within their error bands, insignificant. These results do indicate the need for careful selection and usage of gas cylinders for high-precision calibration purposes such as requested in trace gas applications.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Leuenberger, Markus


500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Copernicus Publications




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

22 Feb 2016 15:19

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:51

Publisher DOI:





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