Scanning Electron Microscopy


Using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and an image analyzer, we have developed a technique for counting and measuring cracks in rocks which is more efficient than traditional techniques in which an operator performs all image analysis functions. The key aspect of the technique is that black-on-white tracings of fresh cracks, which can be made rather rapidly by an operator, are measured and digitized by an image analyzer. The most time-consuming step in the process has now become the generation of SEM micrographs and pertinent chemical (mineralogical) information, not the quantification of crack structure. The technique has been applied to two studies involving nuclear waste isolation in a granitic rock, Climax Stock (Nevada Test Site) quartz monzonite, a Cretaceous age rock which is structurally very inhomogeneous. One study detected a relationship between crack structure and distance from a hammer-drilled borehole; the other study was unable to detect a relationship between crack structure and gamma irradiation treatment in rocks loaded to near failure.

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