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ASTM D4404-18

ASTM D4404-18

Standard Test Method for Determination of Pore Volume and Pore Volume Distribution of Soil and Rock by Mercury Intrusion Porosimetry

2018-03-20 /Active
Significance and Use:

5.1 This test method is intended for use in determining the volume and the volume distribution of pores in soil and rock with respect to the apparent diameter of the entrances of the pores. In general, both the size and volume of the pores affects the performance of soil and rock. Thus, the pore volume distribution is useful in understanding soil and rock performance and in identifying a material that can be expected to perform in a particular manner (1, 2).3

5.2 The intrusion process to determine the volume of a pore proceeds from the outside of a specimen toward its center. Comparatively large interior pores can exist that have smaller outside openings as the only means of access. Mercury intrusion porosimetry will incorrectly register the entire volume of these “ink-bottle” pores as having the apparent diameter of the smaller access pores. In a test specimen, exterior specimen pores can exist in addition to intra-specimen pores (see 3.2 for definitions). The inter-fragment pores will vary in size and volume depending on the size and shape of the soil or rock fragments and on the manner in which the fragments are packed together. It is possible that some exterior specimen pores can have the same apparent diameter as some intra-specimen pores. When this occurs, this test method cannot distinguish between them. Thus, the test method yields an intruded pore volume distribution that is in part dependent upon the packing of multifragment specimens. However, most soils and rocks have intra-fragment pores much smaller than the inter-fragment pores. This situation leads to a bi-modal pore size distribution and the distinction between the two classes of pores can then be made (see Figs. 1 and 2). The intr-fragment pore concentration is shown to the left of the plot; the inter-fragment concentration is to the right.

FIG. 1 Example of Cumulative Pore Volume Distribution Plot

 Example of Cumulative Pore Volume Distribution Plot Example of Cumulative Pore Volume Distribution Plot

FIG. 2 Example of Differential Pore Volume Distribution Plot

 Example of Differential Pore Volume Distribution Plot Example of Differential Pore Volume Distribution Plot

Note 1: The quality of the result produced by this standard is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it, and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing/sampling/inspection/etc. Users of this standard are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself assure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.


1.1 This test method covers the determination of the pore volume and the pore volume distributions of soil and rock by the mercury intrusion porosimetry method. The range of apparent diameters of pores for which this test method is applicable is fixed by the operating pressure range of the testing instrument. This range is typically between apparent pore entrance diameters of about 400 μm and 2.5 nm (0.0025 μm). Larger pores must be measured by another method.

1.2 Mercury intrusion porosimetry is useful only for measuring pores open to the outside of a soil or rock fragment; mercury intrusion porosimetry will not give the volume of any pores completely enclosed by surrounding solids. This test method will give only the volume of intrudable pores that have an apparent diameter corresponding to a pressure within the pressurizing range of the testing instrument.

1.3 Mercury intrusion may involve the application of high pressures to the specimen. This may result in a temporary or permanent alteration or both in the pore geometry. Generally, soils and rocks are composed of comparatively strong solids and are less subject to these alterations than certain other materials. However, the possibility remains that the use of this test method may alter the natural pore volume distribution that is being measured.

1.4 Warning—Mercury has been designated by EPA and many state agencies as a hazardous material that can cause central nervous system, kidney and liver damage. Mercury, or its vapor, may be hazardous to health and corrosive to materials. Caution should be taken when handling mercury and mercury-containing products. See the applicable product Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for details and EPA’s website ( for additional information. Users should be aware that selling mercury or mercury-containing products or both into your state may be prohibited by state law.

1.5 Units—The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as standard. No other units of measurement are included in this standard. Reporting of test results in units other than SI, such as cgs, shall not be regarded as nonconformance with this test method.

1.6 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026.

1.6.1 The procedures used to specify how data are collected/recorded and calculated in this standard are regarded as the industry standard. In addition, they are representative of the significant digits that generally should be retained. The procedures used do not consider material variation, purpose for obtaining the data, special purpose studies, or any considerations for the user’s objectives; and it is common practice to increase or reduce significant digits of reported data to be commensurate with these considerations. It is beyond the scope of these test methods to consider significant digits used in analysis methods for engineering data.

1.7 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use. For specific precaution statements, see Section 8.

1.8 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

hydraulic conductivity; mercury intrusion; mercury extrusion; permeability; pore volume distribution; pore volume; pore size; porosimetry; porosity; soil; voids;
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