The desiccant used in deliquescent dryers will, upon being exposed to water or water vapor in a compressed air stream, deliquesce. That is, the surface of the desiccant chemical, often beads or pellets, will liquefy, and the resulting liquid will flow to the bottom of the vessel.
There is either a manual or auto drain at the base of the deliquescent dryer which is used to expel the collected fluid.
A desiccant dryer, on the other hand, will contain a chemical to strip the water vapor from the air as well, but the desiccant in this type of dryer will not deliquesce (dissolve) as it takes the water from the air. Rather, the desiccant will become saturated to the point where it can no longer trap water, and until it is dried down, it will no longer work.
In chemistry, adsorption of a substance is defined as the concentration of an adsorbate (in this case water) on a particular surface of adsorbent (the desiccant). This results in the formation of a liquid or sometimes a gas film on the surface of the solid pellet or bead.
Deliquescent dryers require recharging periodically. The desiccant contained within will, depending on flow of air and vapor content, ultimately be consumed completely.
Some factors that will affect the consumption of the desiccant are the type of adsorbent, type of adsorbate, the size of the adsorbent bead or pellet, the concentration of the adsorbate in the compressed air stream, and the temperature of that air stream.
This is why you will want to have a water trap, also known as a general purpose compressed air filter plumbed in line just upstream from the deliquescent dryer. Otherwise, any liquid water flowing with the compressed air into the air dryer will make short work of the desiccant chemical, requiring a more frequent - and expensive - recharge.
Check with the vendor to determine which desiccant chemical suits your compressor application.
Unlike other forms of compressed air dryers, a deliquescent unit doesn't guarantee the air will reach a certain dew point. The amount of water vapor in the air that exits the dryer is completely predicated on how much water vapor is in the air going into the dryer.
Where you need to have a specific dew point for the air exiting a dryer, you must use a different, or multiple, compressed air drying systems.