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Saturation vapor pressure

The saturation vapor pressure , (other names include Vapor pressure , Equilibrium vapor pressure, or Saturation vapor pressure) , is the static pressure of a vapor when the vapor phase of some material is in equilibrium with the liquid phase of that same material. The saturation vapor pressure of any material is solely dependent on the temperature of that material. As temperature rises the saturation vapor pressure rises nonlinearly.

An example is water vapor when air is saturated with water vapor. It is the vapor pressure usually found over a flat surface of liquid water, [1] and is a dynamic equilibrium where the rate of condensation of water equals the rate of evaporation of water. In general, the higher the temperature, the higher the vapor pressure. When air is at the saturation vapor pressure, it is said to be at the dew point. Thus, at saturation vapor pressure, air has a relative humidity of 100% and condensation occurs with any increase of water vapor content or a reduction in temperature.

The international standard for saturation vapor pressure over water is given by the Goff-Gratch equation. Another more recent equation for water is the Arden Buck Equation.

Assuming absolutely clean air, if water droplets have a high curvature, which is the case when they are smaller, they require relative humidities in excess of 100% (known as supersaturation) to be at an equilibrium vapor pressure. As droplets approach approximately 20 micrometers, they can survive at 100% relative humidity. As the droplet grows larger by collision and coalescence, it can survive longer because its curvature becomes smoother as the droplet grows. Of course, in actual practice in the Earth's atmosphere, the ability of water to condense into droplets is generally affected by the presence of hygroscopic dust particles (Cloud Condensation nuclei). The relative humidity required for droplets to actually form can be significantly below the real saturation vapor pressure due to the solute effect. Finally, if the temperature becomes low enough in a cloud, as it does in nimbostratus and cumulonimbus clouds, microscopic ice crystals may also serve as condensation nuclei for the cloud in a process known as the Bergeron process.


  1. ^ Babin, SM, Water Vapor Myths: A Brief Tutorial (revised 9/12/98), accessed 2007-07-08

Links A Saturation vapor pressure calculator with some explanations.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Saturation_vapor_pressure". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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