A portable NMR device for the evaluation of water presence in building materials

The direct recording of the water presence in stone materials or in masonry provides information about their state of conservation and it can also indirectly reveal the effectiveness and durability of protection treatments or chemical interventions for rising damp reduction. Evaluating the humidity, i.e. the water content, of a building material is a problematic issue because the water is distributed in a large volume in different amounts. Usually these kinds of measures have been carried out with resistance/conductivity and thermographic systems, which are all affected by weaknesses and intrinsic restrictions. Thermographic investigations are affected by temperature differences and the evaporation–cooling effect. In the case of electric measures, the signal does not originate from the water present, but from the conductivity of the water itself, which is strictly connected to the presence of ion species that can modify it significantly. Moreover, interruptions, like air gaps or fractures, cancel the signal. For both methodologies the quantitative water evaluation is difficult. Although some minerals, like iron-based ones, could disturb the NMR measure, the signal is not influenced by the presence of most common soluble salts or pollutants in the solution (such as nitrates, chlorides or sulphates) and it is only generated by the number of water molecules present in the sensitive volume. In this paper the results, obtained in the laboratory with a portable NMR device, developed within the framework of the Eureka Project E!2214-MOUSE, are shown. The encouraging results obtained in this preliminary experiment, concern mainly the investigation of stone materials that have different porosimetric features and the calibration of the instrument under different working conditions. The experiments focused on the correlation between the content of water absorbed by capillarity and the NMR signal intensity obtained by this device. Different materials have been investigated, such as calcarenite and bricks. The experimental work will define a starting platform to successfully transfer the analytical procedure from the laboratory to in situ measurements.

Tommaso Poli, Lucia Toniolo, Massimo Valentini, Giovanni Bizzaro, Roberto Melzi, Fabio Tedoldi, Giuseppe Cannazza, A portable NMR device for the evaluation of water presence in building materials, Journal of Cultural Heritage, Volume 8, Issue 2, (2007), 134 -140; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.culher.2007.01.002