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Detection and characterization of penetrating pores

in porous materials
Jianhua Wang

, Ming Gan, Junxiang Shi
13th Department, University of Science and Technology of China, Jinzhai Road 96, Hefei 230026, PR China
Received 16 August 2005; accepted 13 February 2006
Sintered porous materials fabricated from powdered super-alloy are considered to be prime candidates for applications requiring
transpiration cooling. The characteristics of these materials, especially the distribution and size of the penetrating pores at the
surface exposed in high heat flux, are important because they directly affect the cooling and burned-out location. Thus, it is
necessary to detect and characterize quantitatively the penetrating pores at the surface. This paper describes a digital image
processing technique that was successfully used to detect the penetrating pores at the surfaces of porous plates. It is suggested that
the homogeneous dimension minimum concept can be used to describe quantitatively the exterior property of the porous materials.
2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Porous material; Penetrating pores; Detection; Characterization
1. Introduction
Porous materials are widely used for daily require-
ments and modern industries as filters, bioreactors, gas
separators, thermal insulators, impact energy absorbers,
and so on. Density, porosity, pore size, permeability and
mechanical intensity are deemed to be the important
parameters and regarded as the property of porous ma-
terials by engineers, designers or manufacturers. These
parameters can also be obtained by the corresponding
measurement techniques [1].
Today, with the development of spaceflight technol-
ogy, transpiration cooling is becoming a very efficient
mode of thermal protection for high heat load structures
[25]. In transpiration cooling, coolant is injected into a
porous matrix, and the heat flux adsorbed by the porous
wall is transported backwards into the hot gas through
coolant flow, as shown in Fig. 1. In this cooling process,
the porous matrix can be seen to be a counter flow heat
exchanger, and the penetrating pores, those that have at
least two openings located on the two sides of the porous
matrix, are used to transport the coolant to the surface
exposed in heat flux. The coolant forms a thin film at the
surface to protect the porous matrix by way of ob-
structing the heat flux. The penetrating pores play an
important role in this cooling process. Thus, detection of
these pores and describing their characteristics has be-
come an attractive subject in the investigation of tran-
spiration cooling.
Traditional experimental methods, such as the
observation of microstructures by scanning electron
microscopy or light optical microscopy, mercury poro-
simetry, gas adsorption and fluid permeation, do not
permit the differentiation of penetrating pores from
exterior open pores. This paper presents the results of an
Materials Characterization 58 (2007) 812

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (J. Wang).
1044-5803/$ - see front matter 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
experimental investigation into the detection of pene-
trating pores via a digital image processing technique
and subsequent evaluation of the characteristics of these
pores using a new concept, the homogeneous dimension
minimum (HDM).
2. Measurement principle
According to Lauziere, Gingrass and Ferrie [6], the
optical response of a digital receiver system, a camera or a
microscope, can be calculated by the following equation

Here C
represents the brightness of a pixel, i
corresponds to red, green and blue of a color receiver
system; E() is the luminosity of the object to be observed;
() is the wavelength response of the ith color channel;
is a correction factor for a non-linear response, for a
linear response 1/
=1; n
is the noise of the receiver
system and can be seen to be constant for a certain system.
The luminosity E() depends on wavelength and is a
function of the brightness of the light source L(), the
light reflectivity from the object R() and the ratio of the
light received by the receiver system ,
Ek RkLke 2
Considering the simple case of 1/
=1, putting Eq.
(2) into Eq. (1), we get

kedk n
Assuming that L(), s
() and are kept constant for
two shoots of the same object, one can get the brightness
at a certain pixel for the two images,

kedk n

kedk n
The brightness of each pixel can be recorded by a
computer. The signals from the color channels can
compose a color image, and also a gray image which has
a digital signature of 2
(65,536) gray levels. For the
gray image, the subscript i italics can be elided.
Therefore, the difference of the grayscale values
between the two images of the same pixel is

Lkskedk 6
This difference may be derived from the reflectivity
of the penetrating pores. According to this principle, one
can detect the size and location of the pores at the
surface of a porous plate through the comparison of the
grayscale values between the two images.
3. Experimental procedure
The porous plate was first observed horizontally. The
first image was captured when all open pores, including
the non-penetrating pores, were fully filled with a liquid
(but not to overflowing), as shown in Fig. 2. Under the
same optical and geometrical conditions, the liquid level
in the penetrating pores dropped, but that in the non-
penetrating pores remained constant, as shown in the
second image (Fig. 3).
Fig. 2. All pores open at the surface filled with liquid.
Fig. 3. As Fig. 2 but after liquid drained from the penetrating pores.
Fig. 1. The porous matrix as a functional material.
9 J. Wang et al. / Materials Characterization 58 (2007) 812
The difference of light reflectivity at the penetrating
pores due to the variation of liquid level can be observed
through a comparison of the grayscale values between
the two images (Figs. 2 and 3). The grayscale values of
the first image minus that of the second image create a
third digital document, or the third image. In the third
image, the bright spots represent the penetrating pores.
Because the reflectivity at the porous matrix' surface
and the non-penetrating pores were the same for the two
shots, according to Eq. (6), at these places, the pixels
brightness of the third image would be zero.
4. Characterization of the penetrating pores
The third image is gray and can be converted to a
black-and-white image through a proper grayscale
threshold [7]. In this black-and-white binary image,
the white spots indicate the location and size of the
penetrating pores, but quantifying the characteristics of
the penetrating pores is still difficult. Fortunately, one
can cite the idea of the Box Counting Dimension
method presented in [8]. Considering the fact that, as the
area observed decreases, the homogeneous distribution
of the penetrating pores will turn to heterogeneous, we
suggest the concept of HDM.
Fig. 4. Two samples, (a) and (b), with the same penetrating area but with different characteristics.
Fig. 5. SEM image of the microstructure of the surface of a ceramic
porous plate.
Fig. 6. (a) LOM image of porous plate surface with open pores filled
with water; bright spots are open pores. (b) Binary image of the same
surface; white spots are penetrating pores.
10 J. Wang et al. / Materials Characterization 58 (2007) 812
Fig. 4 provides one with a better understanding of
this concept. There are two porous plates that have the
same total area (NN) and area of penetrating pores
(white circularities). If the images are each divided into
four equal sets of overlaid grids, the ratio of the white
space to the whole area in all the four boxes of sample
(a) is the same as that in sample (b). Therefore, the pore
distributions are homogeneous in this dimension.
However, if the grid dimension continuously decreases
by one half each time, a heterogeneous character in
different boxes of sample (a) will appear first when the
grid dimension changes from N/4 to N/8. Therefore we
regard N/4 as the HDM of sample (a). Looking at sample
(b), it is clear that the HDM in this case is N/8.
In general, the pores of sintered porous materials are
not as uniform as those in the sketch map and they are
random. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate the distribution
of penetrating pores using a statistical average concept.
5. Practical example
Fig. 5 shows the pore structure of a ceramic porous
plate as seen in a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
From this image, one cannot identify which pores are
penetrative or can transport the coolant to the surface
exposed in heat flux in the case of transpiration cooling.
To detect the penetrating pores, distilled water was used
as a permeable liquid in this experiment. The polished
surface of the porous plate was observed using a light
Fig. 7. (a) Digital camera image of the porous surface; open pores fully filled with water but not to overflowing. (b) Water level has receded from the
penetrating pores. (c) Binary image from (a) and (b). (d) Quantified character of the pore distribution.
Table 1
Values of the four points printed in Fig. 7(d)
Pixels % % %
310294 21.43 3.53 23.18
7773 21.43 4.78 41.06
1918 21.43 5.15 53.80
44 21.43 8.78 72.56
11 J. Wang et al. / Materials Characterization 58 (2007) 812
optical microscope (LOM). When the open pores at the
surface were fully filled with the water (but not to
overflowing), they can be observed in Fig. 6(a). By the
image processing technique described above, the
penetrating pores can be detected in the binary image
(Fig. 6(b)).
This image processing technique can also be carried
out using a digital camera (Fig. 7). The specimen was a
porous plate of sintered Ti powder. Fig. 7(a) was
acquired when all open pores were filled with the liquid.
Fig. 7(b) was obtained after the liquid had receded
through the penetrating pores. Fig. 7(c) is the binary
image obtained by the image processing technique; it
consists of 680588 pixels. To describe the character of
the pores, the following three parameters are defined.
Average penetrating pore ratio:

pore pixels
total pixels
Here n is the total number of the grids.
Root-mean-square error:


Relative error maximum:


100% 9
Fig. 7(d) shows the quantified character of the pores
of Fig. 7(c), the ordinate represents the three parameters
and the abscissa is the log of the total number of pixels
in each grid. The values of the four points in Fig. 7(d)
are listed in Table 1.
From Fig. 7(d), one can find that the average
penetrating pore ratio is constant. With decreases in
the grid dimension, the values of the root-mean-square
error increases slowly, and the relative error maximum
increases rapidly. This fact suggests that the concept of
the HDM would be valid in evaluating the nature of
porous materials. For example, to ensure that the as-
sumption of homogenous material is reasonable when
the allowable relative error maximum and root-mean-
square error are smaller than, respectively, 41.06% and
4.78% in the theoretical investigation of transpiration
cooling, the minimal area considered has to be larger
than 7773area/ pixel. From this point of view, the
area of 7773area/ pixel is called as the HDM
corresponding the assumption.
The financial supports of NSFC (No. 90305006) and
EMFAH (No. 2004kj365zd) are gratefully acknowl-
edged. One of the authors (Jianhua Wang) is also grate-
ful for the financial support provided by the Foundation
of the Education Ministry of China for the Returned
Overseas Scholars.
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