Visualization and quantification of weathering effects on capillary water uptake of natural building stones by using neutron imaging
S. Raneri, G. Barone, P. Mazzoleni and E. Rabot, Appl. Phys. A (2016) 122: 969
Building stones are frequently subjected to very intense degradation due to salt crystallization, often responsible for strong modifications of their pore network. These effects have a great influence on the mechanical properties and durability of the materials, and on the penetration of water. Therefore, the quantification and visualization of water absorption into the pore network of degraded stones could provide useful information to better understand the weathering process. In this study, neutron radiography has been used (1) to monitor and visualize in two dimensions the capillary water uptake in a Sicilian calcarenite widely used as building and replace stone (namely Sabucina stone) and (2) to quantify the water content distribution, as a function of time and weathering degree. Additionally, traditional experiments based on gravimetric methods have been performed, following the standard recommendations. Results demonstrated a change in the physical properties of Sabucina stones with the intensification of the degradation process, with severe effects on the capillary imbibition dynamics. The water penetration depth at the end of the experiment was substantially higher in the fresh than in the weathered stones. The water absorption kinetics was faster in the weathered samples, and the amount of water absorbed increased with the number of weathering cycles. Good agreement between classical and neutron imaging data has also been evidenced. However, neutron radiography has allowed retrieving additional spatial information on the water absorption process, and to better understand how salt weathering affects the petrophysical properties of the studied stone and how it influences then the stone response against water.