Combined Evaporation and Salt Precipitation in Porous Media

N. Weisbrod, M. I. Dragila, U. Nachshon, D. Or, E. Shaharani, A. Grader

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The vadose zone pore water contains dissolved salts and minerals; therefore, evaporation results in high rates of salt accumulation that may change the physical and chemical properties of the porous media. Here, a series of experiments, together with a mathematical model, are presented to shed new light on these processes. Experiments included:(1) long-term column evaporation experiments to quantify changes in evaporation rates due to salt precipitation; (2) CT scans of evaporated porous media samples saturated with salt solutions, to observe salt precipitation from micro to macro scales; and (3) Infrared thermography analysis to quantify evaporation rates from porous media surfaces for homogeneous and heterogeneous conditions and constant water table, in the presence of salt precipitation. As expected, the majority of salt crystallization occurs in the upper parts of the matrix, near the evaporation front. For heterogeneous porous matrices, salt precipitation will occur mainly in the fine pore regions as preferential evaporation takes place in these locations. In addition, it was found that the precipitated NaCl salt crust diffusion coefficient for water vapor is one to two orders of magnitude lower than the vapor diffusion coefficient in free air, depending on environmental conditions and salt crystallization rates. Three new stages of evaporation were defined for saline solutions: SS1, SS2 and SS3. SS1 exhibits a low and gradual decrease in the evaporation rate due to osmotic pressure. During SS2,the evaporation rate falls progressively due to salt precipitation; SS3is characterized by a constant low evaporation rate and determined by the diffusion rate of water vapor through the precipitated salt layer. Even though phenomenologically similar to the classical evaporation stages of pure water, these stages correspond to different mechanism sand the transition between stages can occur regardless the hydraulic conditions. As well, it was shown that matrix heterogeneity lessens the salt effect on evaporation as coarse pore regions are relatively free of salt crystals, facilitating vapor transport towards the atmosphere. This was verified by the thermography analysis that enabled independent quantification of evaporation rates from coarse and fine sections of the media during salt precipitation. This is in contrast to homogeneous conditions, where the salt is distributed homogeneously in the matrix' supper parts, resulting in an increase in matrix resistivity to vapor flow. This research sheds new light on the dynamics of the evaporation process of a saline solution and the importance of considering that natural pore solutions typically include electrolytes.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2012
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2012
EventAmerican Geophysical Union, (AGU) Fall Meeting 2012 - San Francisco, San Francisco, United States
Duration: 3 Dec 20127 Dec 2012


ConferenceAmerican Geophysical Union, (AGU) Fall Meeting 2012
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco


  • 1818 HYDROLOGY / Evapotranspiration
  • 1840 HYDROLOGY / Hydrometeorology
  • 1866 HYDROLOGY / Soil moisture


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