Have you ever wondered why your hair becomes frizzier and curlier in humid weather? The answer to the question above is humidity. Apparently, chemical makeup of human hair is very sensitive to ambient hydrogen. So sensitive, in fact, some gadgets used to measure humidity -- called hygrometers -- rely on hair for their readings.
So why does humidity make hair frizzy? When hydrogen bonds form between the proteins and water molecules in your hair, it will become curly and frizzy.
A cross-section of an individual hair reveals many layers. For our purposes, we'll focus on the middle layer of the hair, which comprises coiled bundles of keratin proteins. These bundles are held together by chemical bonds, created either by neighboring sulfur atoms or hydrogen atoms.
Every time wet hair dries, the hydrogen atoms reform their bonds with hydrogen atoms on neighboring strands of keratin protein, and these bonds hold until the hair is wet again. Hydrogen bonds are responsible for the bedhead you wake up with after falling asleep with wet hair.
Not only does humidity effect our hair, but it can also effect lab results, lab equipment, and contaminate lab environments. Humidity interferes with the signals associated with weighing devices. Cables can wick moisture and condensation causing electrical output to get mixed with input. High moisture levels can also cause the recorded weight of the sample to slowly increase due to the powder absorbing moisture from the environment in which it is located. As the accuracy of measurements is of utmost importance, it is necessary to closely monitor the humidity levels of all settings where measurements are attained.
Humidity affects the properties of air and all materials that come into direct contact with air. Water vapor, a notable greenhouse gas, is highly significant regarding weather and climate. Various manufacturing, storage, and testing processes are dependent upon humidity. Materials that must be stored are vulnerable to damage from their specific environments.
It is important to measure humidity in environments where there is a necessity to prevent and control corrosion, condensation, mold, warping, or other damage of materials. Humidity measurement is especially important for products like foods, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, etc. Yet managing temperature and humidity can be a challenging issue due to other day-to-day tasks that require immediate attention as opposed to long-term climate control.
Monitoring the temperature and humidity of a storage environment is a basic element in the overall preservation of materials. While deterioration cannot be completely avoided as materials come into contact with air, controlling deterioration is possible with monitoring.
Humidity can be expressed in several different ways:
- Relative humidity: How saturated a space or a gas is with water vapor. It is the most commonly used measure of humidity and is generally expressed as a percentage with the symbol “%rh.”
- Dew point: The temperature at which condensation would occur if a gas were cooled. The point informs what temperature the gas should be and is directly related to how much water vapor is present.
- Fraction or ratio: The proportion of water vapor in a gas. This is often expressed as a percentage or a fraction.
- Concentration: The amount or mass of water vapor per unit volume. Typically, room temperature air contains around 10 grams of water vapor per cubic meter.
Selecting the Best Instrument
Before selecting a humidity monitoring device, it is important to ensure that you get the best device for your specific environment and needs. There are numerous aspects to be aware of when determining what device is best for you. Consider these questions and facets regarding humidity monitors while selecting the ideal instrument.
- What do you want to measure? Relative humidity, dew point, or something else?
- What are acceptable humidity and temperature ranges?
- Battery-powered, main electricity, or unpowered?
- Alarms necessary if humidity surpasses a limit?
- Sensor output necessary in order to automatically control something?
- Functional with strange gases/contamination risks/hazardous areas?
- Preferred data output format
- Instrument performance regarding resolution, short-term stability, long-term drift, etc.
- Does it have datalogging capabilities?
Understanding your preference for every question and characteristic above is the best way to ensure that the humidity monitoring device selected will be the ideal tool when measuring humidity in a select environment.
A Parting Reminder
Control Company manufactures Traceable® hygrometers, humidity monitoring devices, that monitor temperature and humidity. Like all measuring devices, humidity readings can experience long-term drift. Calibration is necessary for ensuring accurate humidity measurements and the safety of stored materials. Our A2LA accredited calibration lab produces reliable, easy-to-use humidity monitoring devices and includes a certificate of calibration that assures accuracy from our ISO/IEC 17025:2005 for each device.