Iodine is conventionally used as a contrast agent in hydrological laboratory experiments using polychromatic X-ray computed tomography (CT) to monitor two-phase Darcy flow in porous geological media. Undesirable beam hardening artifacts, however, render the quantitative analysis of the obtained CT images difficult. CT imaging of porous sand/bead packs saturated with iodine and tungsten-bearing aqueous solutions, respectively, was performed using a medical CT scanner. We found that sodium polytungstate (Na6H2W12O40) significantly reduced the beam hardening compared with potassium iodide (KI). This result is attributable to the location of the K absorption edge of tungsten, which is nearer to the peak of the polychromatic X-ray source spectrum than that of iodine. As sodium polytungstate is chemically stable and less toxic than other heavy element bearing compounds, we recommend it as a promising contrast agent for hydrological CT experiments.
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