The relative contribution of adsorption to the overall sorption and transport of small molecules in amber

N. R. Miranda, Benny D. Freeman, H. B. Hopfenberg

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In 1987, Berner and Landis reported that upon vacuum grinding of 80 million year old amber, a gas mixture was released which suggested an oxygen-rich prehistoric environment. Fundamental to their argument was the assumption that amber, an organic glass formed during the fossilization of tree sap, is a perfect sealant. Their assumption was challenged by three technical comments which collectively concluded that gases diffuse readily through amber. In order to defend their key assumption that gases are perfectly trapped in amber, Berner and Landis dismissed the data obtained through gravimetric sorption experiments as only a measure of surface adsorption rather than bulk absorption in and concomitant diffusion through the amber matrix. The validity of interpreting these gravimetric experiments as a measure of bulk diffusion is demonstrated by exploring the physical basis for interpreting gravimetric sorption data. Most importantly, new experimental gravimetric sorption data are presented which demonstrate an explicit separation of adsorption from diffusion-controlled absorption and also reveal that adsorption accounts for a very small fraction of the total sorption in amber.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-155
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • amber
  • diffusion
  • gas and vapor permeation
  • solubility and partitioning

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