Fractal structures in freezing brine
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The process of initial ice formation in brine is a highly complex problem. In this paper, we propose a mathematical model that captures the dynamics of nucleation and development of ice inclusions in brine. The primary emphasis is on the interaction between ice growth and salt diffusion, subject to external forcing provided by temperature. Within this setting two freezing regimes are identified, depending on the rate of change of the temperature: a slow freezing regime where a continuous ice domain is formed; and a fast freezing regime where recurrent nucleation appears within the fluid domain. The second regime is of primary interest, as it leads to fractal-like ice structures. We analyse the critical threshold between the slow and fast regimes by identifying the explicit rates of external temperature control that lead to self-similar salt-concentration profiles in the fluid domains. Subsequent heuristic analysis provides estimates of the characteristic length scales of the fluid domains depending on the time-variation of the temperature. The analysis is confirmed by numerical simulations.