Silica gel is a granular, vitreous, porous form of silicon dioxide made synthetically from sodium silicate. Silica gel contains a nano-porous silica microstructure, suspended inside a liquid. Most applications of silica gel require it to be dried, in which case it is called silica xerogel. For practical purposes, silica gel is often interchangeable with silica xerogel. Silica xerogel is tough and hard; it is more solid than common household gels like gelatin or agar. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is purified and processed into either granular or beaded form. As a desiccant, it has an average pore size of 2.4 nanometers and has a strong affinity for water molecules.
Silica gel is most commonly encountered in everyday life as beads in a small (typically 2 x 3 cm) paper packet. In this form, it is used as a desiccant to control local humidity to avoid spoilage or degradation of some goods. Because silica gel can have added chemical indicators (see below) and absorbs moisture very well, silica gel packets usually bear warnings for the user not to eat the contents.
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