MicroCT-based bulk density measurement method for soils
CITATION: Le Roux, S. G., Du Plessis, A. & Clarke, C. E. 2019. MicroCT-based bulk density measurement method for soils. Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, 61(1):2-9, doi:10.17159/2309-8775/2019/v61n1a1.
The original publication is available at http://www.scielo.org.za
High-resolution micro-computed tomography (microCT) is a method growing rapidly in popularity and has been applied to various soil studies with great success, especially for 3D characterisation of pore spaces or mineral distributions. However, microCT is not typically used for soil bulk density measurements, probably due to relatively simple and fast alternatives. Besides the complex process of image analysis from microCT scans, the method is also limited in resolution, which can result in incorrect total porosity estimation. This is especially true for granular materials, such as soils with small pore spaces between particles. In this work we demonstrate a different, yet very simple methodology for microCT adapted to overcome these limitations by using only volumetric measurements of the samples, and not segmentation of pore spaces or density calibrations. This method allows accurate bulk density determination for soil clods and cores. The method is faster than tradition methods, and it allows for additional analyses, such as surface area, macro-porosity, connected pore network and macro-particle shape analysis. The method is tested and directly compared for the same samples to the traditional waxing Archimedes method, with good correlation. The microCT scans of waxed samples also indicate sources of possible error in the waxing Archimedes method by visualising trapped air and wax penetration into open pore spaces. The method is then applied to cores and local bulk density measurements, and their variability down the cores is demonstrated, which can be very useful in complex soil profiles. The method is robust in varying resolution and image blur as it makes use only of volumetric measurements of the entire sample, not image grey-value calibration or segmentation of pore spaces.
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