Improved Interpretation of Mercury Intrusion and Soil Water Retention Percolation Characteristics by Inverse Modelling and Void Cluster Analysis
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This work addresses two continuing fallacies in the interpretation of percolation characteristics of porous solids. The first is that the first derivative (slope) of the intrusion characteristic of the non-wetting fluid or drainage characteristic of the wetting fluid corresponds to the void size distribution, and the second is that the sizes of all voids can be measured. The fallacies are illustrated with the aid of the PoreXpert® inverse modelling package. A new void analysis method is then described, which is an add-on to the inverse modelling package and addresses the second fallacy. It is applied to three widely contrasting and challenging porous media. The first comprises two fine-grain graphites for use in the next-generation nuclear reactors. Their larger void sizes were measured by mercury intrusion, and the smallest by using a grand canonical Monte Carlo interpretation of surface area measurement down to nanometre scale. The second application is to the mercury intrusion of a series of mixtures of ground calcium carbonate with powdered microporous calcium carbonate known as functionalised calcium carbonate (FCC). The third is the water retention/drainage characteristic of a soil sample which undergoes naturally occurring hydrophilic/hydrophobic transitions. The first-derivative approximation is shown to be reasonable in the interpretation of the mercury intrusion porosimetry of the two graphites, which differ only at low mercury intrusion pressures, but false for FCC and the transiently hydrophobic soil. The findings are supported by other experimental characterisations, in particular electron and atomic force microscopy.
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