Evaporation is the process whereby atoms or molecules in a liquid state (or solid state if the substance sublimes) gain sufficient energy to enter the gaseous state.
The thermal motion of a molecule must be sufficient to overcome the surface tension of the liquid in order for it to evaporate, that is, its kinetic energy must exceed the work function of cohesion at the surface. Evaporation therefore proceeds more quickly at higher temperature and in liquids with lower surface tension. Since only a small proportion of the molecules are located near the surface and are moving in the proper direction to escape at any given instant, the rate of evaporation is limited. Also, as the faster-moving molecules escape, the remaining molecules have lower average kinetic energy, and the temperature of the liquid thus decreases.
If the evaporation takes place in a closed vessel, the escaping molecules accumulate as a vapour above the liquid. Many of the molecules return to the liquid, with returning molecules becoming more frequent as the density and pressure of the vapour increases. When the process of escape and return reaches an equilibrium, the vapour is said to be "saturated," and no further change in either vapour pressure and density or liquid temperature will occur.
Gas has less order than liquid or solid matter, and thus the entropy of the system is increased, which always requires energy input. This means that the entropy change for evaporation (?Hevaporation) is always positive.
Forced evaporation is a process used in the separation of mixtures, in which a mixture is heated to drive off the more volatile component (e.g. water), leaving behind the dry, less volatile, component.
Although there is a popular notion that water vapour only exists at 100°C at 1 atm, the escaping molecules are said to be in vapour form due to the fact that there are different energy levels at which molecules attain the energy to vapourise. If a molecule receives enough energy, it will leave the liquid and turn into vapour. At 100°C, a given mass of water has all the energy required to completely turn from liquid into vapour.