Focussed ion beam assisted three-dimensional rock imaging at submicron scale
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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Focussed ion beam assisted three-dimensional rock imaging at submicron scale


Computation of effective flow properties of fluids in porous media based on three dimensional (3D) pore structure information has become more successful in the last few years, due to both improvements in the input data and the network models. Computed X-ray microtomography has been successful in 3D pore imaging at micron scale, which is adequate for many sandstones. For other rocks of economic interest, such as chalk and diatomite, submicron resolution is needed in order to resolve the 3D-pore structure. To achieve submicron resolution, a new method of sample serial sectioning and imaging using Focused Ion Beam (FIB) technology has been developed and 3D pore images of the pore system for diatomite and chalk have been obtained. FIB was used in the milling of layers as wide as 50 micrometers and as thin as 100 nanometers by sputtering of atoms from the sample surface. The focused ion beam, consisting of gallium ions (Ga+) accelerated by potentials of up to 30 kV and currents up to 20,000 pA, yields very clean, flat surfaces in which the pore-grain boundaries appear in high contrast. No distortion of the pore boundaries due to the ion milling is apparent. After each milling step, as a new surface is exposed, an image of the surface is generated. Using secondary electrons or ions, resolutions as high as 10 nm can be obtained. Afterwards, the series of 2D images can be stacked in the computer and, using appropriate interpolation and surface rendering algorithms, the 3D pore structure is reconstructed.

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