An experimental study of salt expansion in sodium saline soils under transient conditions

Abstract

Salt expansion in sulfate saline soils that are widely distributed in northwestern China causes serious infrastructural damages under low-temperature conditions. However, the mechanism of salt expansion under low temperatures is not clear. In this study, we conducted a series of cooling experiments combined with salt crystallization to study this mechanism, and employed an ionic model to calculate the supersaturation ratio of the solution. During the experiments, the strength and the process of salt expansion were examined under different cooling rates and various crystal morphologies. The relationship between temperature and supersaturation ratio under transient conditions was also considered. Results indicate that the initial supersaturation ratio of a sodium sulfate solution is closely related to environmental conditions, and that this ratio decreases with slowing the cooling rates and stabilizing the crystal forms. Higher initial supersaturation ratios lead to an increased non-steady-state zone, resulting in less salt expansion. On the other hand, chloride ion content has a distinct influence on the crystallization supersaturation ratio of the sodium sulfate solution, and higher chloride ion content can inhibit salt expansion in sodium saline soils. These findings help explain salt expansion mechanisms in complex conditions such as seasonally frozen soils, and thus help search for improved methods of preventing salt expansion in sulfate saline soils.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41601068, 31602001, 41230630), the Young Scholars Development Fund of Southwest Petroleum University (201599010104), and the Scientific Research Starting Project of Southwest Petroleum University (2015QHZ025).

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Correspondence to Xusheng Wan.

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Wan, X., You, Z., Wen, H. et al. An experimental study of salt expansion in sodium saline soils under transient conditions. J. Arid Land 9, 865–878 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-017-0029-z

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Keywords

  • sulfate saline soil
  • supersaturation ratio
  • ionic model
  • cooling rate
  • salt expansion