Pocket penetrometers are frequently used to determine the density of soil and even the makeup of soil samples. However, when you have foreign matter that you cannot quite figure out, you may have a conundrum on your hands. Thankfully, a penetrometer may be able to solve the riddle.
Softness vs. Hardness
The penetrometer, via its resistance reader, can tell you how hard or soft the foreign matter is. The readings will help you categorize the substance as it falls between the softest soil and hardest rock. Really hard substances cannot be penetrated at all, while really soft substances will allow the penetrometer to sink right through. Then you can look at other known substances that have same or similar readings in order to create a hypothesis of what the foreign matter might be.
Limited Penetration Depth Determines Depth of Sample
If the sample of foreign matter is difficult to measure, the penetrometer only measures to a certain depth. Taking into consideration the full penetration depth of the penetrometer, you can then make an educated guess as to the depth of the foreign matter. For example, a pocket penetrometer can sink into a low-resistance material (i.e., soft) to the full depth of five or six millimeters. Any portion of the material that remains below the end of the probe cannot be effectively measured, but you can guess the depth. This will also help you determine what the sample is by ruling out what it is not.
Soil Samples Surrounding the Foreign Matter
You can garner clues about the foreign matter by also taking soil samples from the soil that surrounded the foreign matter. The samples reveal different particle sizes, insects, organic matter, and other clues about what the foreign matter might be. When the soil samples from around the foreign matter are scorched to ash, it is easy to understand that you might be looking at a meteorite or at something that was incinerated by fire.
Finding Similar Samples of Foreign Matter in a Ten-Mile Radius
Additionally, it helps to create a radius of ten miles surrounding the sample of foreign matter. It may take several months, but you may just find other similar samples of the same stuff with which to compare the original foreign matter sample you found. Focused study on these other samples and the larger sample, as well as the surrounding soil samples, will help you arrive at the best possible answer to what you have in front of you.
For more information, contact companies like Certified Material Testing Products.