- The Pressure induced by salt crystallization in confinement
- Scientific Reports
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute (WZI)
Institute for High Energy Physics (IHEF)
Institute of Physics (IoP)
Salt crystallization is a major cause of weathering of rocks, artworks and monuments. Damage can only occur if crystals continue to grow in confinement, i.e. within the pore space of these materials, thus generating mechanical stress. We report the direct measurement, at the microscale, of the force exerted by growing alkali halide salt crystals while visualizing their spontaneous nucleation and growth. The experiments reveal the crucial role of the wetting films between the growing crystal and the confining walls for the development of the pressure. Our results suggest that the measured force originates from repulsion between the similarly charged confining wall and the salt crystal separated by a ∼1.5 nm liquid film. Indeed, if the walls are made hydrophobic, no film is observed and no repulsive forces are detected. We also show that the magnitude of the induced pressure is system specific explaining why different salts lead to different amounts of damage to porous materials.
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