Measuring the relative humidity from evaporation with a wet-bulb thermometer: the psychrometer


Measuring the relative humidity of air is an important challenge for meteorological measurements, food conservation, building design, and evaporation control, among other applications. Relative humidity can be measured with a psychrometer, which is a hygrometer composed of two identical thermometers. The bulb of one thermometer is covered by a wick soaked with water so that evaporative cooling makes it indicate a lower temperature than the dry-bulb thermometer; it is possible to determine the relative humidity from the difference between these readings. We describe both a model and an experimental setup to illustrate the principle of a psychrometer for a pedagogical laboratory. The science of psychrometry could be more broadly taught at the undergraduate level to help introduce students to aspects of measurement techniques, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and non-equilibrium thermodynamics.

American Journal of Physics