The neutron probe has proven to be an effective means for monitoring long term in situ soil moisture variations. However, it is difficult to experimentally correlate neutron probe data (i.e., neutron counts) with accurate estimates of absolute soil moisture content, particularly for unsaturated clay soils. In this paper, a numerical model based on multigroup neutron diffusion theory is employed to predict the distribution of neutron flux in a neutron probe system. The model discretizes the neutron energy spectrum into seven intervals, with energy-dependent diffusion coefficients and parameters for each energy interval. The finite element method is employed to solve the coupled seven-group neutron diffusion equations. It is demonstrated that the numerical results compare very well with both laboratory experimental results and field measurements. The theoretical approach to neutron probe calibration described herein offers significant time and cost savings over traditional calibration methods, and potentially opens up new applications for neutron probe monitoring.
International Journal Of Geomechanics Vol. 3, Issue 1, p. 11-20