Measuring paramagnetism 3 – a portable instrument

In Part 2 I described a flat coil sensor which changes inductance according to the magnetic susceptibility of what is in front of it. To make this useful in the field I need something to display the change.

the field instrument
the field instrument. The black button stores the calibration frequency with no sample, the red button takes the reading and displays the result after 4 seconds

I was going to count the high-frequency microcontroller clock over, say 500 periods of the low-frequency sensor signal. That turns out to be a terrible way to do this. I don’t have the gear to measure it, but I suspect the jitter from slicing the 1.5kHz sensor signal is too high. The result is that the third significant digit twitters a lot. By counting changes in the sliced sensor signal (thus doubling the frequency) over a fixed period I get the twitter down to one part in >12000 counts[ref]the operating frequency is ~1500 Hz so counting transitions gives me 2 x 1500 * 4 = 12000 counts in four seconds[/ref] over a four-second signal acquisition time. Continue reading “Measuring paramagnetism 3 – a portable instrument”

Measuring paramagnetism 2 – a new sensor

Part 1

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.

Continue reading “Measuring paramagnetism 2 – a new sensor”

Measuring paramagnetism

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 😉

It's not really right to go chiselling a lump off this to insert into a Gouy balance...
It’s not really right to go chiselling a lump off megaliths that have survived thousands of years to insert into 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.

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Paramagnetic soil ponderings and perambulations

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.

A lump of paramegnetic rock (the coin is ~2cm dia)
A lump of paramagnetic rock (the coin is ~2cm dia)

When applied to soil and the growth of plants, however, paramagnetic effects fall into the domain of the woo-woo rather than the analytic 🙂 Igneous rock and volcanic soils tend to be notably paramagnetic. Philip Callahan is the go-to source, and this extract from a 1995 Acres USA article is a high-level spin on his take : Continue reading “Paramagnetic soil ponderings and perambulations”