Salt precipitation as subflorescence or efflorescence crust occurs during saline solutions evaporation from porous media. Non-linear synergy between evaporation and salt precipitation processes results in a complex mechanism that has yet to be quantitatively understood. Presented here is a series of experiments and a mathematical model that shed light on these processes. Experiments include: (1) long-term column evaporation experiments to quantify changes in evaporation rates due to salt precipitation; (2) long-term Hele-Shaw evaporation experiments to visualize salt precipitation at the macro scale; and (3) CT scans of evaporated porous media pre-saturated with NaI solutions to observe salt precipitation at the pore scale. Experiments were conducted for homogeneous and heterogeneous media using a number of saline solutions (NaCl, CaSO4, KCl, CuSO4 and NaI). A mathematical model was developed to explore quantitatively the physical and chemical mechanisms involved in the evaporation-salt precipitation process. The model simulated salt precipitation and it affect on evaporation. Three new stages of evaporation are introduced and defined for saline solutions: SS1, SS2 and SS3. SS1 exhibits a low and gradual decrease in evaporation rate caused by a changing osmotic potential. During SS2, evaporation rate falls precipitously a salt precipitates. SS3 is characterized by a constant, low evaporation rate. The phenomenological similarity to the classical evaporation stages of pure water, S1, S2 and S3, are only coincidental, the three saline stages correspond to entirely different mechanisms. The mathematical model was used to also quantify the diffusion coefficient through a salt crust. Heterogeneity during saline evaporation was found to strongly control the location of salt precipitation: salt precipitation occurred mainly within the fine-pore regions which act as a wick transporting water from the coarser media. Heterogeneity also permits greater saline evaporation by concentrating salt over the fine-pore regions: coarse-pore regions remain relatively free of salt crystals enabling vapor to flow towards the atmosphere.
- 1042 GEOCHEMISTRY / Mineral and crystal chemistry
- 1818 HYDROLOGY / Evapotranspiration
- 1843 HYDROLOGY / Land/atmosphere interactions
- 1875 HYDROLOGY / Vadose zone