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Diffusion of ions in unsaturated porous materials

Abstract : In a salinity gradient, the diffusion of ions through the connected porosity of a porous and charged material is influenced by the charged nature of the interface between the pore water and the solid. This influence is exerted through the generation of a macroscopic electrical field termed the diffusion or membrane potential. This electrical field depends on the excess of counterions located in the pore space counterbalancing the charge density of the surface of the solid. In unsaturated porous materials, we have to consider (1) the effect of the charged nature of the air/water interface, (2) the increase of the counterion density as the counterions are packed in a smaller volume when the saturation of the nonwetting phase (air) increases, and (3) the influence of the water saturation upon the tortuosity of the water phase. The volume average of the Nernst–Planck equation is used to determine the constitutive equations for the coupled diffusion flux and current density of a multicomponent electrolyte in unsaturated conditions. We assume that water is the wetting phase for the solid phase. We neglect the electro-osmotic flow in the coupled constitutive equations and the deformation of the medium (the medium is assumed to be both isotropic and rigid). This model explains well the observed tendency of strong decreases of the apparent diffusion coefficient of ions with the decrease of the saturation of the water phase under steady-state conditions. This decrease is mainly due to the influence of the saturation upon the tortuosity of the water phase.
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Submitted on : Thursday, October 30, 2008 - 10:18:22 AM
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A. Revil, D. Jougnot. Diffusion of ions in unsaturated porous materials. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, Elsevier, 2008, 319 (1), pp.226 à 235. ⟨10.1016/j.jcis.2007.10.041⟩. ⟨insu-00335621⟩



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