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Progress and Prospects of Salt Lake Research in China

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China has unique salt lake resources, and they are distributed in the east of Eurasian salt lake subzone of the Northern Hemisphere Salt Lake Zone, mainly concentrated in the regions with modern mean annual precipitation lower than 500 mm. This paper preliminarily reviews the progress made in salt lake research in China for the past 60 years. In the research of Paleoclimate and paleoenvironment from salt lake sediments, a series of salts have been proposed to be indicators of paleoclimate, and have been well accepted by scholars. The chloride‐sulfate depositional regions of the west Qaidam and the east Tarim have been revealed to be the drought center of China since the Quaternary, and more than 6 spreading stages of arid climate (salt forming) have been identified. Five pan‐lake periods with highstands have been proved to exist during the late Quaternary on the Tibetan Plateau. In mineral resource prospecting and theories of the forming of salt deposits: the atlas (1:2500000) of hydrochemical zoning of salt lakes on the Tibetan Plateau has been compiled for the first time, revealing the zonal distribution and transition from carbonate type to chloride type from south to north and presenting corresponding mineral assemblages for different type of salt lakes; several large continental salt deposits have been discovered and the theory of continental potash deposition has been developed, including the salt deposition in deep basins surrounded by high mountains, the mineral deposition from multistage evolution through chains of moderate or shallow lakes with multilevels, the origin of potassium rich brines in gravel layers, and the forming of potassium deposits through the inheriting from ancient salt deposits, thus establishing the framework of “Continental Potash Deposition Theory”; several new types of Mg‐borate deposits have been discovered, including the ulexite and pinnoite bed in Da Qaidam Lake, Qinghai, the pinnoite and kurnakovite bed in Chagcam Caka, Tibet, the kurnakovite bed in Lake Nyer, and the corresponding model of borate deposition from the cooling and dissolution of boron rich brines was proposed based on principles of geology, physics and chemistry. The anti‐floatation‐cold crystallization method developed independently has improved the capacity of KCl production to 3 million tons per year for the Qarham, serving the famous brand of potash fertilizer products. One 1.2 million ton K‐sulfate production Une, the biggest in the world, has been built in Lop Nor, and K‐sulfate of about 1.6 million tons was produced in 2015. Supported by the new technology, Le. brine preparation in winter‐cooling‐solarization‐isolation‐lithium deposition from salt gradient solar pond” the highest lithium production base at Zabuye Lake (4421 m), Tibet, has been established, which is the first lithium production base in China that reaches the year production of 5000 tons of lithium carbonate. The concept of Salt lake agriculture (Salt land agriculture) has been established based on the mass growth of Dunaliella and other bacillus‐algae and the occurrence of various halophytes in saltmarsh and salt saline‐alkali lands, finding a new way to increase arable lands and develop related green industry in salt rich environments. Finally this paper presents some new thoughts for the further research and development on salt science, and the further progress in salt science and technology will facilitate the maturing of the interdisciplinary science “Salinology”.
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Keywords: mineralization and salting theory of saline lakes; progress in salt lake research in China; salt deposition; salt lake agriculture; salt lake deposits and paleoclimate; utilization and exploitation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2016

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