Silica Gel Vs Molecular Sieves: The Differences


For companies that manufacture perishable goods—particularly food and pharmaceutical manufacturers—the shelf-life and quality of a product are paramount. Drugs that line the shelves in pharmacies can’t become less effective or degrade as they wait to be purchased and consumed.

Therefore, many manufacturers add absorbents and desiccants to control moisture and preserve the efficacy of their products and extend their shelf-life. Today, companies have a wide array of quality desiccants to choose from, with silica gel and molecular sieves being the two most commonly used ones in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Difference between Silica Gel and Molecular Sieves

While both silica gel and molecular sieves are desiccants with impressive moisture-removing capabilities, there are distinct differences between the two both in terms of chemical composition and how they function.

Silica Gel

Starting off with silica gel, it comes in the form of beads or granules. It’s a porous material which functions like a sponge, trapping moisture into its pores. Silica gel is capable of absorbing up to 40% of its weight in water. Moreover, in addition to its excellent moisture-absorption capabilities, silica gel is an FDA-approved material for drug and food packaging.

Molecular Sieve

An aluminosilicate with a 3D-structure, molecular sieve is a quick-drying agent, with water absorption capabilities that are far superior to those of silica gel. Furthermore, molecular sieves are known to remain stable even in high temperatures and are perfect for products that require low humidity. But with that being said, while the material is being used as a desiccant in Europe, it’s yet to gain the approval of the FDA.

How to Choose Between Silica Gel and Molecular Sieve

Now that we’ve explained the primary differences between silica gel and molecular sieve, it’s time to answer the big question: which one should you choose? Well, when it comes to selecting the right desiccant for your product, cost isn’t the only important factor. Other things you should keep in mind include:

  • Moisture fluctuations
  • Mechanical forces
  • Temperature range
  • Assembly options
  • Relative humidity
  • Pressure changes

Both silica gel and molecular sieves can be easily incorporated into a product. From sachets, to canisters, to packets—desiccants can take on a variety of shapes, which make them suitable for every application.

A premier manufacturer and supplier of industrial-grade absorbents and desiccants and Sorbead India offers high-quality activated alumina, molecular sieves and other dehumidifiers for sale online. Get in touch with us to learn more about the products we offer.

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