Advantages and Disadvantages of Neutron Probes

A neutron probe is a device that is used to measure the quantity of water that exists in soil. It is widely used across industries such as geologging and farming. A neutron probe contains a pellet of americium and beryllium, whereby the alpha particles from americium collide with the beryllium nuclei. Consequently, the detection of the slow neutrons will allow the probe to detect the amount of hydrogen that is present within the soil.

Neutron probes are used thanks to their range of advantages. Below, we will outline some of the main uses and advantages of neutron probes, while detailing potential disadvantages when compared to other options.

Advantages of Neutron Probes

  • Soil moisture can be measured regardless of its physical state
  • Thanks to its fantastic depth, a neutron probe can read an average moisture level
  • Such probes can be interfaced with automatic downloading of stored data
  • Soil moisture changes can be logged and measured to give accurate information
  • Rapid changes of moisture level can be detected easily
  • Measurements can be made and profiled in a non-destructive and reliable manner

A primary advantages; as listed above, is its ability to measure large amounts of soil, through its large depth range. This allows a much more accurate measurement when compared to many others that simply calculate an average from a much smaller sample size. In addition, the depth of measurement from the neutron probe is limited only by the depth of the cable, which can be customised to create an even more effective tool. Regardless of its depth, the amount of time it takes to give off the accurate measurements is the same, meaning this system is incredibly efficient.

Disadvantages of Neutron Probes

  • Inadequate depth resolution may create a measurement of moisture content a little harder, especially in heavily layered soils
  • Moisture measurement may depend on physical and chemical properties that have proven to be difficult to measure
  • There is a certain level of care and attention when dealing with this process to minimise potential health risks. This is due to the dealing with probes that contain a radioactive source.
  • The immediate moisture at the soil surface cannot be measured as it does not reach within the neutron probes sphere of influence, creating a potentially inaccurate result if not considered upon measurement.

When all advantages and disadvantages are weighed up by the individual user/ user group, it is possible to see where in certain applications and project it may be incredibly useful. On the other side, it is clear to see that in certain applications this process may not be the best choice, so consulting experts in the field is recommended to understand everything.