I am a biologist currently doing field work where I need to quickly dry leaf samples using silica gel crystals. I use the orange indicating kind that are 2-4mm in size. The setup is like this. I stuff 1-2 leaves in a manila paper envelop which I drop in a ziplock bag containing ~1/8th cup of silica gel. Then I squeeze out most of the air before sealing the ziplock. The end goal here is to extract DNA from dried leaves when I am back in the lab.
I have had varied results in terms of drying and looking to achieve the maximum efficiency. Recently it occurred to me whether squeezing air out is actually counterproductive to fast drying.
So my question is, whether presence of sufficient air necessary for silica gel to absorb moisture from leaves? Essentially I am creating partial vacuum inside the ziplock. Is that keeping silica from doing its job?