Data_Sheet_5_A Novel Lithium Foil Cosmic-Ray Neutron Detector for Measuring Field-Scale Soil Moisture.CSV (12.3 kB)
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Data_Sheet_5_A Novel Lithium Foil Cosmic-Ray Neutron Detector for Measuring Field-Scale Soil Moisture.CSV

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posted on 07.07.2021, 04:22 authored by Andres Patrignani, Tyson E. Ochsner, Benjamin Montag, Steven Bellinger

During the past decade, cosmic-ray neutron sensing technology has enabled researchers to reveal soil moisture spatial patterns and to estimate landscape-average soil moisture for hydrological and agricultural applications. However, reliance on rare materials such as helium-3 increases the cost of cosmic-ray neutron probes (CRNPs) and limits the adoption of this unique technology beyond the realm of academic research. In this study, we evaluated a novel lower cost CRNP based on moderated ultra-thin lithium-6 foil (Li foil system) technology against a commercially-available CRNP based on BF3 (boron trifluoride, BF-3 system). The study was conducted in a cropped field located in the Konza Prairie Biological Station near Manhattan, Kansas, USA (325 m a.s.l.) from 10 April 2020 to 18 June 2020. During this period the mean atmospheric pressure was 977 kPa, the mean air relative humidity was 70%, and the average volumetric soil water content was 0.277 m3 m−3. Raw fast neutron counts were corrected for atmospheric pressure, atmospheric water vapor, and incoming neutron flux. Calibration of the CRNPs was conducted using four intensive field surveys (n > 120), in combination with continuous observations from an existing array of in situ soil moisture sensors. The time series of uncorrected neutron counts of the Li foil system was highly correlated (r2 = 0.91) to that of the BF-3 system. The Li foil system had an average of 2,250 corrected neutron counts per hour with an uncertainty of 2.25%, values that are specific to the instrument size, detector configuration, and atmospheric conditions. The estimated volumetric water content from the Li foil system had a mean absolute difference of 0.022 m3 m−3 compared to the value from the array of in situ sensors. The new Li foil detector offers a promising lower cost alternative to existing cosmic-ray neutron detection devices used for hectometer-scale soil moisture monitoring.