The paper examines ion (chloride) transport equations in porous media (concrete) integrated over a representative elementary volume, that is to say, averaging over the macroscopic level the phenomena that occur really at the pore scale. There are three basic variables to be used: chloride concentration, moisture and temperature. The diffusion process is examined, in addition to other phenomena such as convection (the motion of dissolved substances caused by flow of water in a pore solution of partially saturated media) or chloride binding (the capacity of free chloride of being chemically bound, particularly with C3A to form Friedel salts). Contrary to other approaches, such effects are not considered by means of apparent diffusion coefficients but by developing the complete set of time-dependent equations for both the chloride concentration within the pore solution and the moisture content within the pore space.
Once the general model is described, the system of equations can be solved numerically by means of a two-dimensional finite element formulation. The main objective is to reproduce results of experimental tests by means of a priori parameter estimation, according to the characteristics of materials and external environment conditions, thereby superseding the well-known best fit a posteriori through Fick's second equation.
While the introduction of hygrometric conditions and convection phenomena appears to be of high significance, other factors like temperature, surface concentration, chloride binding or equivalent hydration time are analysed too. The proposed model can reproduce bidimensional complex geometries, for example, cracked concrete cover, as well as variable surface condition. An application case is developed through a realistic model of the geometry of a crack. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.