Using Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy to Detect Water in Planetary Regoliths

Astrobiology August 2008, 8(4): 781-792.

We present data in examination of the utility of electrical impedance spectroscopy measurements for in situ surveys to determine the water content, distribution, and phase in unconsolidated planetary regolith. We conducted calibration experiments under conditions relevant to Mars: the concentration of electrolytes in solution was varied up to 1 M to simulate the effects of unsaturated dissolved minerals and brines. We also varied the water content of heterogeneous water/sand mixtures, made with these electrolytic solutions from 0.01 wt% to 10 wt%. Tests were performed at temperatures from +25C to 65C. Conductivity and dielectric permittivity calculated from the impedance measurements indicate an expected dependence on electrolyte concentration and relative independence from electrolyte type for both liquid water and water ice.

Conductivity and calculated dielectric relaxation times for these aqueous solutions agree with existing data in the literature. The relative permittivity for heterogeneous water/sand mixtures is dominated by polarization effects for the electrode configuration used. However, the characteristic orientational relaxation of ice is still visible. The conductivity retains the strong dependence on electrolyte concentration, and the permittivity is still not affected by electrolyte type. A universal curve between conductivity and water content establishes detectability limits of <0.01 wt% and 0.3 wt% for water/sand mixtures containing liquid water and ice, respectively.

Astrobiology 8, 781792.

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