On the Potential of Tomographic Methods when Applied to Compacted Crushed Rock Salt

Research paper by Lukas M. Keller, Michael Jobmann, Philipp Schuetz, Philippe Gasser

Indexed on: 05 Jul '14Published on: 05 Jul '14Published in: Transport in Porous Media


Compacted crushed rock salt is considered as potential backfill material in repositories for nuclear waste. To evaluate the sealing properties of this material knowledge concerning the nature of the pore space is of eminent interest. Here, the pore microstructures of crushed rock salt samples with different compaction states were investigated by X-ray (XCT) computed tomography and Focused Ion Beam nanotomography (FIB-nt). Based on these methods the pore microstructures were reconstructed and quantitatively analyzed with respect to porosity, connectivity and percolation properties. Regarding pores with radii \(> 4\,\upmu \hbox {m}\), porosity differs substantially in the two analyzed samples (\(\phi = 0.01\) and 0.10). The pore microstructures are considered isotropic in connectivity and percolation threshold. Using two finite-scaling schemes we found percolation thresholds with critical porosities \(\phi _{c} > 0.05\). Based on statistical considerations, the millimeter size samples that can be analyzed by XCT are large enough to provide a meaningful picture of the pore geometry related to macroporosity. The samples contain also a small fraction (i.e. \(< 0.01\)) of pores with radii \(< 1\,\upmu \hbox {m}\), which were resolved by FIB-nt. Often these pores can be found along grain boundaries. These pores are granular shaped and are not connected to each other. Typical samples size that can be analyzed by FIB-nt is on the order of tens of microns, which turned out to be too small to provide representative geometric information unless an effort is made that involves several FIB-nt realizations per sample.