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Scenario: A jar of zinc chloride (which is very hygroscopic) is left on a shelf in a chemistry classroom for several years. You open it and it is hard. What is the word to describe that? It was ruined by moisture in the air leaking into the bottle. So basically, what is the past tense of something hygroscopic that has been exposed to moisture? I've been searching for a bit, can't find it, and it is driving me crazy. Thanks in advance.

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2 Answers 2

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I am afraid that there is no single word to describe this process because it must a multistep process with a lot of complications. Hygroscopic substances can become deliquescent, which means these solids continue to absorb moisture from air till they become liquids or form a saturated solution. That saturated solution, if left undisturbed, can form large hydrated crystals from slow evaporation, or perhaps it hydrolyzed over time in a lab environment to other oxychloride.

NaOH pellets behave similarly. They become liquid, form a coating of sodium carbonate and then those pellets fuse and recrystallize. That is also a hard mass.

The verb is "deliquesce".

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    $\begingroup$ I assume this addresses just the extreme hygroscopicity that manifests as deliquescence, what is not the OP case. The Czech informal lab speech uses for such a moisture triggered sintered state the adjective "spečený", what means literally "baked up together" $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Mar 21, 2023 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Poutnik, I think sintering involves heating. Let us see the dictionary meanings. sinter: A hard incrustation or deposit formed upon rocks, etc., by precipitation from mineral waters; esp. siliceous sinter. (2) Material which has been subjected to sintering; spec. iron ore prepared for smelting by sintering the powdered material, usually together with coke and other materials; So sintering does not apply. $\endgroup$
    – AChem
    Mar 21, 2023 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @AChem I know what sintering means. I should have used moisture triggered "sintering", for nonavailability of better word. // Hygroscopicity has a wide range and deliquescence is just at one of its end. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Mar 21, 2023 at 16:35
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The word for powder that turned into a lump is "caked". The process is "caking". Anticaking agents are used to prevent this.

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  • $\begingroup$ Caking may not involve deliquesce and it is usually used for surfaces. For example, Oxford English Dictionary defines "cake" as a verb "To form, harden, or coagulate into a (usually flattish) compact mass; to form into a thick crust or deposit, esp. on a surface. Also with together." If the OP shared a picture, that would have been the best! $\endgroup$
    – AChem
    Mar 21, 2023 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @AChem The OP described rather "thick crust" than saturated solution for his jar of zinc chloride. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Mar 21, 2023 at 16:40

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