Since I will be taking the sensor to the rock I’m going to temporarily give up on getting an absolute measurement, and take a leaf out of Bartington’s book from last time and use a flat coil. I will never be able to contain the sample in the magnetic field[ref]unless I grind a slot in the rockface and put the coil into it I suppose :)[/ref] as I might be able to in a solenoid, to the effective susceptibility will always be lower than 1. One day I may be able to calibrate this and find a fixing factor, but for now I will look for relative differences.
There are two approaches to measuring paramagnetism that seem to be common. One is to use a balance to measure the slight attraction to a magnet – put sample in a balance, apply magnetic field, look for difference in weight of sample using a Gouy balance or use a torsion balance to observe the attraction in a horizontal plane which takes out the static weight of the sample.
The trouble with these two is the attraction due to paramagnetism is weak compared to the weight of the sample – these are lab bench instruments and the electromagnet consumes a lot of power. Although taking samples of soil is easy enough to bring back to the lab, one really shouldn’t be taking a hammer and chisel to ancient monuments to get a sample for a Gouy balance 😉
The other way of measuring volume magnetic susceptibility is to stick the sample into a coil and measure the inductance – with a different configuration of the coil as a search coil it can be used to measure susceptibility at the rockface.
Paramagnetism is a reasonably straightforward characteristic of materials – if there are unpaired electrons in the atoms then the element will be paramagnetic and weakly drawn to a magnet. This demo of oxygen being paramagnetic is great – so far so scientific. Compounds can change this – water is diamagnetic although H2O is clearly contains oxygen.
This is using Elaine Ingham’s microscopy techniques to investigate thermal compost – some of what I saw. I am at an early stage of being able to do this, so any errors are mine and not Elaine Ingham’s 😉 The principle is to classify organisms by their morphology – aerobic fungi tend to have a colour, diameter wider than 2.5µm and/or have uniform septa. Spiral structures are bad, indiciative of anaerobic conditions, and ciliates (hairs all over the body) also indicate anaerobic – bad- conditions. Apart form the spirochete most of these are good.
This is on a 5x dilution, the recommended intial conditions (use 1ml of compost and make up to 5ml total with water left to stand so the chlorine has gone).
Sticking a Raspberry Pi camera exposed to the elements doesn’t do it any good over time, resulting in the hazy crazed lens problem.
The solution is to put some glass in front of the lens – and indeed this is exactly what this commercial outdoor spec little lipstick CCTV camera does
I discovered this when I took it apart to unscrew the lens a bit to make a close focus. And then cracked the glass refitting it as the lens stuck out too much. If you ever need a flat round piece of glass, search for watch crystal on ebay and they are to be had in lots of diameters. A watch crystal is apparently a term for the glass on a watch as well as the 32,768 Hz timing quartz crystal. A flat watch crystal repaired this camera.
The direct exposure of the camera lens to the elements is the biggest weakness of the now-defunct PICE weatherproof Pi case. But it is easily rectified now, using a piece of flat glass fitted with Sugru or Milliput putty. I used sugru and a cut down microscope slide, since I didn’t want to buy another watch crystal when microscope slides are optically flat and cheaper. It is a lot easier to cut glass under water, and you can remove the viciously sharp edges using a cheap diamond sharpening stone to smooth the cut edge and chamfer the corner.
The easiest and low-tech way of adding the microorganisms from compost is to extract them fro mthe compost using water and a mesh, then spray the water – in our case using watering cans. You can spread the compost itself, and there’s much to be said for that, but it’s more stuff to wrangle and needs to happen before you plant, ideally. Since we are going to test areas on already growing plants, extract it is. Compost tea is a way of getting more microbes out there, but it is technically harder and we don’t have the gear. Extract it is, then. The rate seems to be about a good handful per 5 gallons, we used half an IBC, ie about 500 liters, which is 110 gallons. So we need about 20 times as much
We made a bag by putting the compost in the middle of the net curtain material and tying up the top with a releasable cable tie.