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The application of X-ray micro Computed Tomography imaging for tracing particle movement in soil

Grayling, K.M.; Young, Scott D.; Roberts, Clive J.; de Heer, Martine I.; Shirley, I.M.; Sturrock, Craig; Mooney, Sacha J.


K.M. Grayling

Scott D. Young

Martine I. de Heer

I.M. Shirley

Professor of Soil Physics


Despite significant advances in recent years in the application of sensing and imaging technologies to the study of the hydraulic behaviour of soils, our understanding of how solutes and particulate matter move through soil is still limited and often based on idealised soil structures. The aim of this work was to use an appropriate proxy material, in this case (Decabromodiphenyl ether (DBDE)), to represent 1–2 μm sized chemical particles, frequently used in agricultural practices, in order to trace their spatial and temporal movement through a soil column. X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) was employed to map the 3D pore geometry and facilitate visualization of the concentration distribution of the highly X-ray attenuating proxy material as it was applied and subsequently leached through the soil over a 5 hour period. Simultaneously the soil eluate was collected from the bottom of each column and the concentration of proxy material measured using gas chromatography to compare with the imaged data. The method developed for visualizing the tracer material in 3D at the pore-scale was successful. The results demonstrated that the tracer material initially moved rapidly through the upper portion of the soil but subsequently became immobile, despite repeated elution with water as confirmed by imagery. Similar concentrations to those applied to the soil surface were not recorded at any point in time towards the bottom of the soil column. By visualizing the DBDE distribution in 3D it was possible to correlate the highest concentrations of the tracer material with the location of the smaller size pores (i.e. mesopores). Dynamic X-ray CT imaging of tracer materials has considerable potential as a proxy for the visualization of particulate agricultural chemicals that will assist with understanding how their transport behaviour varies both spatially and temporally.


Grayling, K., Young, S. D., Roberts, C. J., de Heer, M. I., Shirley, I., Sturrock, C., & Mooney, S. J. (2018). The application of X-ray micro Computed Tomography imaging for tracing particle movement in soil. Geoderma, 321,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 28, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 3, 2018
Publication Date Jul 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 29, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 4, 2019
Journal Geoderma
Print ISSN 0016-7061
Electronic ISSN 1872-6259
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 321
Keywords X-ray Computed Tomography; chemical breakthrough curve; particle tracking; soil; tracer
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:


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