The Dead Sea brine is supersaturated with respect to gypsum (Ω = 1.42). Laboratory experiments and evaluation of historical data show that gypsum nucleation and crystal growth kinetics from Dead Sea brine are both slower in comparison with solutions at a similar degree of supersaturation. The slow kinetics of gypsum precipitation in the Dead Sea brine is mainly attributed to the low solubility of gypsum which is due to the high Ca2+/SO42- molar ratio (115), high salinity (∼280 g/kg) and to Na+ inhibition. Experiments with various clay minerals (montmorillonite, kaolinite) indicate that these minerals do not serve as crystallization seeds. In contrast, calcite and aragonite which contain traces of gypsum impurities do prompt precipitation of gypsum but at a considerable slower rate than with pure gypsum. This implies that transportation inflow of clay minerals, calcite and local crystallization of minerals in the Dead Sea does not prompt significant heterogeneous precipitation of gypsum. Based on historical analyses of the Dead Sea, it is shown that over the last decades, as inflows to the lake decreased and its salinity increased, gypsum continuously precipitated from the brine. The increasing salinity and Ca2+/SO42- ratio, which results from the precipitation of gypsum, lead to even slower kinetics of nucleation and crystal growth, which resulted in an increasing degree of supersaturation with respect to gypsum. Therefore, we predict that as the salinity of the Dead Sea brine continues to increase (accompanied by Dead Sea water level decline), although gypsum will continuously precipitate, the degree of supersaturation will increase furthermore due to progressively slower kinetics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology