Laser scanning confocal microscopy characterization of water repellent distribution in a sandstone pore network



In the present work, we propose the use of the Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy (LSCM) to determine the effect of water repellents on rock's pore-network configuration and interconnection. The rocks studied are sandstones of Miocene age, a building material that is commonly found in the architectural heritage of Tunisia. The porosity quantitative data of treated and untreated samples, obtained by mercury porosimetry tests, were compared. The results show a slight decrease in total porosity with the water repellent treatment, which reduced both microporosity and macroporosity. This reduction produced a modification in pore size distribution and a shift of the pore access size mode interval toward smaller pore diameters (from the 30–40 μm to the 20–30 μm intervals). The water repellent was observed in SEM images as a continuous film coating grain surfaces; moreover, it was easily visualized in LSCM, by staining the water repellent with Epodye fluorochrome, and the coating thickness was straightforwardly measured (1.5–2 μm). In fact, the combination of mercury intrusion porosimetry data and LSCM observations suggests that the porosity reduction and the shift of the pore diameter mode were mainly due to the general reduction of pore diameters, but also to the plugging of the smallest pores (less than 3–4 μm in diameter) by the water repellent film. Finally, the LSCM technique enabled the reconstruction of 3D views of the water repellent coating film in the pore network, indicating that its distribution was uniform and continuous over the 100 μm thick sample. The LSCM imaging facilitates the integration and interpretation of mercury porosimetry and SEM data. Microsc. Res. Tech., 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.