The pH dependence of spectral induced polarization of silica sands: Experiment and modeling

  • Skold M
  • Revil A
  • Vaudelet P
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In electrolyte‐saturated sands, the storage of electrical charges under an alternating electrical field (called “induced polarization”) is responsible for a phase lag between the applied current and the resulting electrical field. Because a variety of polarization mechanisms exists in porous materials, the underlying physics of induced polarization is somehow unclear and the field data difficult to interpret quantitatively. Measurements at various pHs and salinities can be used to discriminate between different competing mechanisms at low frequencies (1 mHz‐ 1 kHz) in porous media in the absence of electronic conductors. New experimental data point out that, in addition to the polarization of the Stern layer (the inner part of the electrical double layer coating the surface of the silica grains), there is another polarization mechanism possibly associated with a hopping process of the protons on the silica surface. We propose that such a process could follow a Grotthuss cooperation mechanism (as in ice) involving the bound water of the silica surface. Our data also rule out a mechanism based on the diffuse layer. The new polarization mechanism may be applied to quantifying induced‐polarization data collected over acidic contaminant plumes.

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