The influence of NaCl concentration on salt precipitation in heterogeneous porous media

Mina Bergstad, Dani Or, Philip J. Withers, Nima Shokri
  • Water Resources Research, February 2017, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • DOI: 10.1002/2016wr020060

What is it about?

Evaporation of saline solutions from porous media is governed by the complex interactions between the transport properties of the porous media, the evaporating solution, and the external boundary conditions. In the present study, we have investigated the effects of salt on the evaporation process from porous media in the presence of a sharp textural discontinuity, a common heterogeneity in natural porous media formed due to the weathering or formation of soil horizons, wind deposition, and erosion. We have conducted a comprehensive series of macroscale and microscale experiments to delineate how the precipitation pattern is modified as salt concentration varies from relatively low values to a concentration close to the solubility limit. For concentrations much less than the solubility limit, the precipitation begins at the coarse-textured part of the heterogeneous porous media (which is a counter-intuitive result considering the preferential evaporation of water from the fine-textured part of the heterogeneous surface). However, when the concentration is close to the solubility limit, precipitation initiates preferentially at the fine-textured part of the heterogeneous porous surface. This behavior results from the interaction between the transport properties of the porous media and the properties of the evaporating solution which must be considered. Additionally, using pore-scale images obtained by X-ray microcomputed tomography (CT), we have visualized the dynamics of precipitation in the presence of heterogeneity at high spatial and temporal resolution. The pore-scale results corroborate the mechanisms controlling the precipitation patterns in the presence of textural discontinuities inferred from the macroscale experiments.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Philip J Withers

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