Mercury Porosimetry Analysis Techniques

A software package, called Pore-Cor Research Suite, is now available through Particle and Surface Sciences that gives insights into the structure of voids and fluids inside porous substances. Strangely enough, without this software, scientists are usually forced to make the approximation that the pores inside a porous substance are simply bundles of parallel, unconnected tubes, going from one side right through to the other. Such an approximation is usually very far from the truth. Pore-Cor takes mercury intrusion or water retention or electron microscopy data, and constructs a 3-dimensional interconnected void network which is much more realistic, and matches the porosity and percolation properties exactly over the whole range of data. The software can be used to optimise the properties of porous materials and to study pore fluids. It has been successfully applied to materials as diverse as paper coatings, catalysts, sandstone, granite, cement, fuel cell substrates, soil, sinters, pharmaceutical tablets, filters and tantalum capacitors. A 3-D void structure is generated in virtual reality using Pore-Eye, which can be used to view the intricate arrangement of pores, and to find out exactly where different types of fluids move and reside.

Also available in the package is Pore-Comp. This program allows mercury intrusion and extrusion data for compressible substances to be used to calculate the bulk modulus or compressibility of the solid phase of the sample. Such data gives insights into phenomena such micro-cracking, cementation and sinter structure. The last member of the Suite is Pore-Ped, which generates water retention curves for many different soils types, including English and Welsh soils from the NSRI pedo-transfer function, American soils from the UNSODA data base, and users’ own experimental values. Both Pore-Comp and Pore-Ped are interfaced with Pore-Cor.

Many properties can be studied. These include the pore and throat size distributions, geometric data, size auto-correlation, absolute permeability, tortuosity, diffusion, Improved Oil Recovery, colloidal flow, depth filtration, preferential flow and fast wetting. Questions which have been answered are: how can I make my porous tantalum capacitors smaller without reducing their performance?; do I really need to impregnate my porous sinters for so long? ; How is this filter going to perform? ; And why does this soil have such strange water retention characteristics? It has been used to develop new high-performance paper coatings for ink jet printing, and in the optimisation of porous battery electrode separators.

The software has developed by the Environmental and Fluid Modelling Group at the University of Plymouth, UK, as a by-product of £2m of research income funded by the UK research councils and industry. Users throughout the world have extensively tested the software, and all of their suggestions have been written into the latest version 6. Many prizes have been won by research group members and programmers, who have top class degrees from universities including Plymouth, Milan and Cambridge.
A very large amount of information about the software is available at the website www.pore-cor.com. You can also download the entire 340-page Help system, which includes tutorials and detailed case studies.

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