Characterization by X‐ray μCT of the air‐filled porosity of an agricultural soil at different matric potentials

Sarah Smet, Erwan Plougonven, Angélique Léonard, Aurore Degré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To describe various important soil processes like the release of greenhouse gases or the proliferation of microorganisms, it is necessary to assess quantitatively how the geometry and in particular the connectivity of the air-filled pore space of a soil evolves as it is progressively dried. The availability of X-ray computed microtomography (μCT) images of soil samples now allows this information to be obtained directly, without having to rely on the interpretation of macroscopic measurements using capillary theory, as used to be the case. In this general context, we present different methods to describe quantitatively the configuration of the air-filled pore space in 3D μCT images of 20 separate samples of a loamy soil equilibrated at different matric potentials. Even though measures using μCT on such multi-scale materials strongly depend on image resolution, our results show that in general, soil samples most often behave as expected, for example, connectivity increases with higher negative matric potential, while tortuosity decreases. However, simple correlations could not be found between the evolution of quantitative descriptors of the pore space at the different matric potentials and routinely measured macroscopic soil parameters. A statistical analysis of all soil samples concurrently confirmed this lack of correspondence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13387
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D computed tomography
  • capillary theory
  • connectivity
  • soil pore space
  • soil water retention curve
  • tortuosity


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