Evaporation of saline solutions from porous media, common in arid areas, involves complex interactions between mass transport, energy exchange and phase transitions. We quantified evaporation of saline solutions from heterogeneous sand columns under constant hydraulic boundary conditions to focus on effects of salt precipitation on evaporation dynamics. Mass loss measurements and infrared thermography were used to quantify evaporation rates. The latter method enables quantification of spatial and temporal variability of salt precipitation to identify its dynamic effects on evaporation. Evaporation from columns filled with texturally-contrasting sand using different salt solutions revealed preferential salt precipitation within the fine textured domains. Salt precipitation reduced evaporation rates from the fine textured regions by nearly an order of magnitude. In contrast, low evaporation rates from coarse-textured regions (due to low capillary drive) exhibited less salt precipitation and consequently less evaporation rate suppression. Experiments provided insights into two new phenomena: (1) a distinct increase in evaporation rate at the onset of evaporation; and (2) a vapor pumping mechanism related to the presence of a salt crust over semidry media. Both phenomena are related to local vapor pressure gradients established between pore water and the surface salt crust. Comparison of two salts: NaCl and NaI, which tend to precipitate above the matrix surface and within matrix pores, respectively, shows a much stronger influence of NaCl on evaporation rate suppression. This disparity reflects the limited effect of NaI precipitation on matrix resistivity for solution and vapor flows.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology