Desiccants - Proving that history’s not always dry…

You may not be interested in chemistry - so you may think that a blog dealing with the history of desiccants will be boring. But bear with us as we explain what a desiccant is, how it can be applied, and what all this has to do with Birch Chemicals and our exclusive moisture absorber BirchSorb.

BirchSorb is a hyperdesiccant – the world’s first disposable hyperdesiccant, in fact. So far so good - but what is a desiccant? You can easily reach the right conclusion based on the fact that BirchSorb is an absorber. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of desiccant is ‘a drying agent’ - so in other words it’s a hygroscopic substance which attracts and removes moisture from something or somewhere, keeping it as dry as possible.


Desiccants through history

Desiccants of different kinds have been used in a variety of scenarios over many centuries. They have been used in the preparation or transport, storage and packaging of food. Most easily brought to mind is desiccated coconut, for example. They have also featured in medicine and health, having been used in certain procedures and during the development of some types of medicine, including as a controlled-release agent.

Desiccants are used in the construction industry as a method of controlling moisture during builds or repairs to property. In the aviation industry desiccants are employed to prevent internal moisture damage to an aircraft’s fittings and important equipment during downtime.

They have been a big part of various military efforts, too. During the First World War the popular silica gel desiccant was used for the absorption of gases and vapours in gas masks. During the Second World War, desiccants were used to keep penicillin dry, protect military hardware and other equipment from moisture damage, as a fluid cracking trigger in the production of high octane gasoline, and as a catalyst in the manufacture of feedstock. There are still applications in military circumstances to this day.


Which is the best desiccant? 

Desiccants are often used in container shipping, as a way to mitigate against highly problematic ‘container rain’ – which, by simple explanation, is when a container develops its own weather system! BirchSorb is the best! 

Alongside inland movement of smaller goods, the primary aim for the team behind the development of BirchSorb was to raise the industry standards in shipping and packaging and provide the best all-round ‘go-to’ solution for the job.

There are also more domestic, and leisure uses for desiccants. Households can benefit whether used in the house itself or in storage areas such as the garage and shed. Desiccants for motorhomes are also a hugely sensible choice as a way to protect from damp damage. They’re equally effective in other leisure vehicles, caravans and vintage cars whether on or off the road. Boats and motorbikes which are in storage can be protected, too.


How BirchSorb fits into the history of desiccants

Before we explain the position of BirchSorb within the history of desiccants, we’ll explain that a desiccant is a drying-out substance but not necessarily a product manufactured in a laboratory.

Rice, for instance, is a naturally occurring desiccant with high absorption properties, as is salt (though salt has downsides which make it impractical for many purposes – it corrodes metal, for example). Clay is also a desiccant, naturally absorbing moisture, thought it is problematic in certain scenarios (when it’s wet it becomes a cement-like substance). Chalk is also a highly efficient desiccant, and quicklime is a powerful desiccant derived from heating high quality chalk / limestone. 

This is where we can start telling you about Birch Chemicals, the company.

Just over 200 years ago, merchant William Singleton Birch set up a company to quarry and supply chalk to British industry. Singleton Birch was very successful and – fast forward more than a century – by 1992 high quality hydrated lime powder and other derivative products were being serviced to an ever-increasing share of global industry out of quarries, kilns and plants in Lincolnshire, a county in the north of the UK.

Some notable applications of quicklime provided by Singleton Birch include various airports, the Millennium Dome and the Channel Tunnel. Quicklime is often used to dry out the land and make it suitable for construction and development purposes on large-scale projects.

During lime production, the scientists at subsidiary company Birch Chemicals discovered a molecule with incredible absorption properties. This was then developed into a unique multi-component dry formula - the world’s first hyperdesiccant – BirchSorb.


Why Choose BirchSorb?

Once installed, BirchSorb begins to draw in moisture from the surrounding environment and starts setting it into a solid form. The moisture is chemically ‘bound’ during an exchange between the fast and slow acting components of the formula. BirchSorb was specifically engineered to ‘lock in’ that moisture with no leakage and no re-release of humidity.

It’s far more effective than basic desiccants such as silica gel and clay or calcium chloride alternatives. Whereas silica gel can absorb around 27% of its own weight, BirchSorb can handle a minimum of double, and it also lasts for at least eight weeks. It’s an odour free, handily packaged and easy to use product, and there’s a version perfect for meeting your absorption needs whether you’re a homeowner or a haulier!