Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Modern routes to explore pore space

An EU-funded research and development team has found new ways to map the 3D structure of porous materials and rapidly provide unique solutions that meet specific needs.
Modern routes to explore pore space
Testing materials to ensure quality and suitability has been an integral part of building and maintaining underground structures for waste storage, pollutant migration and oil migration. In all cases, it is necessary to describe in adequate detail the porosity of a wide variety of materials to adequately model fluid transport.

Through the close cooperation of geologists and civil engineers, the EU-funded project POSINAM (Pore space investigation in natural and artificial materials) developed the means needed to realistically model a broad range of porous materials. Geological samples that were tested include granite and clay rocks as well as cements.

To characterise the heterogeneous porosity of these materials, an impregnation technique with C14-polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) was employed. Developed in the 1990s, C14-PMMA saturation involves in situ polymerisation of the radiolabelled resin by irradiation or thermal polymerisation, cutting and autoradiography of the cut surface.

PMMA has very low viscosity and a small footprint: it was, therefore, able to penetrate even the tiniest pore. The subsequent numerical analysis of the autoradiograph allowed POSINAM partners to draw detailed maps of the pore space on the cutting plane of geological samples.

The PMMA autoradiographs were validated against images from an optical microscope and scanning electron microscope as well as from X-ray tomography. Petrographic analysis provided an additional description of their texture and mineral content, complementing the porosity maps.

The exchange of knowledge and expertise between the industrial and academic partners was an integral part of the POSINAM project. The testing platform that was jointly built at the Poitiers University in France is expected to provide a valuable service to materials industries that need 3D models of their manufactured products.

Related information

Keywords

Porous materials, underground structures, waste storage, model, granite, thermal polymerisation
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