Desiccants induce dryness in any environment and reduce the amount of moisture present in air. Desiccants come in various forms and have found widespread use in the food, pharmaceuticals, packing, electronics and many manufacturing industries.
One example of desiccant usage is in the manufacture of where zeolite spheroids fill a rectangular spacer tube at the perimeter of the panes of glass. The desiccant helps to prevent the condensation of moisture between the panes. Another use of zeolites is in the dryer component of air conditioning systems to help maintain the efficacy of the refrigerant. Desiccants are also commonly used to protect goods in shipping containers against moisture damage. Hygroscopic cargo, such as cocoa, coffee, and various nuts and grains, are particularly susceptible to mold and rot when exposed to condensation and humidity. Because of this, shippers often take precautionary measures to protect against cargo loss.
Despite their banal standing, desiccant packs have an exciting history. Silica gel, commonly used in the packs, has existed for around 370 years, so it has had ample opportunity to impact history. The horrific gas attacks of WW I were endured with the help of silica gel packs placed in gas mask canisters, enabling them to absorb the immobilizing vapors. Another impressive example is these packs were used to keep military gear and penicillin dry, during WW II. Deservedly, penicillin featured on the curators’ list of worthy inventions, so surely a contrivance which enables penicillin to remain effective, is warranted an honorable mention too? There is no doubt that innovations such as Reynold’s X-ray set and Crick and Watson’s DNA model have or will save lives, but desiccant packs have clearly preserved life too.