The fragile and unique nature of meteoritic material requires a method of density measurement that is accurate yet nondestructive. This is difficult to achieve using conventional methods. In this study, the bulk density of eleven meteorite fragments which vary in shape, size, surface roughness, porosity, and reflectance has been determined using three-dimensional (3-D) laser imaging. An auto-synchronized laser camera raster scanned the surface features of each meteorite without contact and to a high degree of precision. Visualization software was used to align several scans into a closed model and to compute its volume. The mass having been predetermined, the density was then easily computed. Three-dimensional laser imaging is the least invasive method of density measurement currently in use. The precision of the approach is less than 1%. The densities determined using 3-D laser imaging compare very well with previously published values, based on a variety of different measurement techniques. The average difference is 3.4% and can be attributed to the presence of heterogeneities and to the limited amount of comparative data available. For nine out of the eleven samples studied, the densities determined using 3-D laser imaging are higher than previously published results. Friction between fluid and container, and bead compaction might have led to an overestimation of the volume measured using Archimedean methods. In addition to volume measurements, 3-D images of rock samples can yield detailed information on surface properties from a distance. The technique could be used for semiautonomous planetary geological exploration. Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Department of Earth Sciences

Smith, D.L. (Darr L.), Samson, C, Herd, R., Deslauriers, A., Sink, J.-E., Christie, I., & Ernst, R.E. (2006). Measuring the bulk density of meteorites nondestructively using three-dimensional laser imaging. Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth, 111(10). doi:10.1029/2005JE002623