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Rate of Moisture

Absorption
1. Introduction & Importance
Textile Materials play a vital role in our lives but aspects of textiles related to
moisture are probably amongst the most important ones. It is noted that
textile materials take too long to attain dynamic equilibrium (regarding
absorption of moisture) with their surroundings. One of the prime examples of
this is drying of clothing material if hanged in open air for the very purpose.
There are multitude of factors impacting the attainment of such equilibrium
like temperature, air humidity, wind velocity, surrounding space, thickness of
material, density of material, nature of fibre just to name a few.
Doesnt matter how irksome it may prove; this slow attainment of dynamic
equilibrium with surroundings has its benefits. For example, in situations
where material retains water, it prevents rapid changes in humidity or
temperature and thus exercises stabilising or control influence.
We are attempting to study the factors that play key role in changing
conditions of textile materials. To simplify matters, the material taking in
water shall be assumed. It then becomes clear that drying shall follow the
reverse path.
2. Diffusion of Moisture
2.1
Diffusion Equation and its solution
The slowness of drying or wetting can be explained with a reasonable /
obvious assumption that it takes long for the material to get dry or wet
because it takes water molecules a while to move into fibre from air or to
move into air from fibre.
In case the concentration of water or any diffusing fluid varies within the
medium of concern (e.g. air or fibre) from one place to another, the
molecules of diffusing fluid move from the region with higher
concentration to the region with lower concentration. This movement
continues until the concentration of the diffusing fluid in the medium
becomes equal. When such a situation is reached, a dynamic equilibrium
is said to be achieved. There is hardly any movement of the fluid
molecules (in the medium) once the equilibrium has been reached except
under circumstances where ambient temperature or humidity changes
with respect to the medium itself. In such a case the gradient of
concentration becomes available and the diffusion process starts over and
continues unless a new state of equilibrium is reached.
We are going to consider a section / stratum in the medium of diffusing
fluid that has the depth and height of unity but has the thickness dx as

shown in Fig. 1. The rate of mass transport

dm
dt across the section /

stratum with area A perpendicular to diffusing fluid (i.e. in one


dimension, say x for convenience) was first given by Adolf Fick [1]. Under
steady state assumption, diffusive flux is related to concentration of
diffusing fluid according to Ficks First Law which has the generic form (for
two or more dimensions) as given under: -

J=

dm
=DA c (1)
dt

Where D = Coefficient of Diffusion


m = Mass being transported across the stratum / section
A = Area of the stratum / section across which diffusion is taking
place
t = Time taken by mass m to diffuse across the stratum / section
c = Concentration of diffusing fluid
J = Diffusive flux (equal to mass transport rate)

= Nabla Operator

Fig. 1 Diffusion across section / stratum of medium perpendicular to concentratio

dx

If the concentration of the fluid on the left face of the section / stratum, as
shown in Fig. 1, is c then its clear that the concentration, with gradient

c
c
c+
dx .
on
the
right
face
(also
shown
in
Fig.
1)
will
be

x
x
The equation (1), for one dimension (namely x), can be written as: -

dm
c
=DA
(2)
dt
x
From equation (2), a differential equation can be derived that interrelates
concentration, time and position.
Considering the section / stratum shown in Fig. 1, the mass that diffuses
into the left face (of the

section / stratum) in time dt is: -

dm=D

c
dt (3)
x

Now, replacing the concentration of right face into equation (3) gives us
the mass diffusing out of the right face across the section / stratum during
same time dt : -

dm=D

c
c+
dx dt( 4)
x
x

Expanding equation (4), gives us: -

dm=D

c
c
D
dx dt (5)
x
x x

The increase in mass in the section / stratum is the difference of equations


(3) and (5) and is same as the change of concentration multiplied by the
volume of the section / stratum: -

c
c
c
c
dt . dx=D
dt + D
+D
dx dt (6)
t
x
x
x x

( )

Upon solving, the equation (6) reduces to: -

c
c
=
D
( 7)
t x
x

The equation (7)1 is the diffusion equation for one dimension. This can also
be generalised to be applied in two or more dimensions.
Assuming that the coefficient of diffusion D remains constant throughout
the medium, equation (7) can simply be written as: 2

c
c
=D 2 (8)
t
x
Equation (8) can be solved for appropriate boundary values but doing that
here is not possible as it demands a book of its own. A collection of
solutions for variety of cases like one discussed here and many others
have been provided in detail by Crank [2] to which enthusiastic reader(s)
is / are duly referred.
However, Morton & Hearle [3] have assumed conditions far simpler than
one shall encounter in real life. They have adopted analytical approach
which for most of the purposes (also for fibres of textile use), provides
satisfactory solution without sacrificing much of the accuracy & precision

required. It is a known fact, however that regarding diffusion, textile


fibres are amongst the most complicated structures.
In systems as complicated as fibrous structures, the coefficient of diffusion
varies with concentration itself. There are other problems that may
present themselves. For example, absorption taking place with diffusion
removes the molecules from diffusion process thus making it hard to keep
track of diffusion itself. Also, the swelling sets the medium in motion along
with diffusing substance. All such complicated scenarios have been
discussed in detail by Crank [2].
The analytical approach of solving PDEs cannot be applied to equation (7)
unless some relationship between D and c is established / used /
employed.
However, simpler approach can be adopted by avoiding mathematical
complexities of the solution for PDEs derived herein. The scenario for such
a solution is shown in Fig. 2. We are going to make a special case of it
where diffusion is taking place from a source of infinite concentration c 0
to a receiver with mean concentration c at time t.
In this case we can write (refer to Fig. 2): -

dc dm dc

[( cc 0 ) ] (9)
dt dt
cx

( )

Fig. 2 Diffusion into a receiver from an infinite source of concentrati

C0

C = 0 at t = 0

From proportionality (9), the equality can be formulated as under: -

dc
dt
= (10)
cc 0
Where = Time constant.
Now at the start where t = 0, c = 0; integrating with these boundary
conditions: -

t
log ( c 0c ) = log c 0

(11)

From equation (11), we have: t

c=c ( 1e ) (12)
0

In equation (12) putting t = : -

( 1e )(13)

c=c0 1

It can be inferred from equation (13) that is the time it takes for the
process to reach 63% of its total progress.
If we differentiate equation (12): -

dc c 0
= e
dt

(14)

For t = 0, equation (14) yields: -

dc c 0
= (15)
dt
Equation (15) says that is also the time the process shall take for
completion provided that it progressed at initial rate. The pictorial
portrayal of equations (13) and (15) is given in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3 Change of relative concentration c/c0 in receiver after


diffusion from a source of infinite concentration c0. Here is
time constant and depends on specific diffusion conditions[3].
As can be seen that pictorial representation is just a plot between relative
concentration c/c0 of receiver and time constant . The plot shows an
exponential trend and at first rises fast due to lack of diffusive fluid
molecules in receiver. As receiver is filled, empty space gets low leaving
less and less for incoming ones. This is the spot where curve starts
flattening and once receiver is filled up completely, means have no
emptier space, incoming is blocked and curve gets flatened. The height of
the curve is dependent on the capacity of the receiver and to some extent
on source concentration level. If source is large enough, then source
concentration level has hardly anything to do with height the curve takes.
Further Reading: 1. A. Fick, Ueber Diffusion, Annalen der Physik, 1855, pp. 59 86.
2. J. Crank, The Mathematics of Diffusion, Second Edition, Clarendon Press,
Oxford, England, 1975.
3. W. E. Morton & J. W. S. Hearle, Physical Properties of Textile Fibres, Fourth
Edition, Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge, England, 2008.