Pore casting refers to filling the void spaces of porous materials with an extraneous fluid, usually epoxy resin, to obtain a high-strength composite material, stabilize a fragile porous structure, produce a three-dimensional replica of the pore space, or provide imaging contrast. Epoxy pore casting may be accompanied by additional procedures, such as etching, in which the material matrix is dissolved, leaving a clean cast. Moreover, an epoxy resin may be mixed with fluorophore substances to allow fluorescence imaging. Our work aims to investigate and optimize the epoxy pore casting procedure parameters, for example, impregnation pressure. We use silicon micromodels as a reference to validate the key parameters of high-pressure resin impregnation. We demonstrate possible artifacts and defects that might develop during impregnation with resin, e.g., resin shrinkage and gas trapping. In the end, we developed an optimized protocol to produce high-quality resin pore casts for high-resolution 3D imaging and the description of microporosity in micritic carbonates. In our applications, the high-quality pore casts were acid-etched to remove the non-transparent carbonate material, making the pore casts suitable for imaging with Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM). In addition, we evaluate the quality of our etching procedure using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scans of the pre- and post-etched samples and demonstrate that the etched epoxy pore casts represent the pore space of microporous carbonate rock samples with high fidelity.
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