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Evaluation of capacitance moisture sensors for use in municipal solid waste



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Current municipal solid waste (MSW) practices have encouraged rapid waste degradation (stabilization) as an alternative to past methods of isolating the waste from the surrounding environment. There are challenges to rapid-stabilization technology, in particular, the management of the in-situ MSW moisture content. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the use of capacitance moisture probes for the purpose of measuring the moisture content within MSW. Capacitance moisture probes have not previously been used in MSW, however their use in agriculture is extensive and knowledge of their potential for monitoring MSW is limited. The specific objectives of this research were to: i) establish a laboratory based correlation between sensor data and volumetric moisture content in MSW, ii) establish a correlation between field-installed capacitance sensors and moisture content derived from continuous-depth in-situ sampling of MSW, and iii) demonstrate the ability of capturing advancing/receding moisture fronts with the field-installed capacitance sensors. Laboratory trials were conducted using hand-compacted MSW at volumetric moisture contents ranging from 15%-55% and a manual type of capacitance sensor. This series of laboratory trials successfully produced a correlation between sensor output and volumetric moisture content. To evaluate the sensors in a real-world application, two configurations of capacitance moisture probes were installed in the field: i) an in-place, continuous-time capacitance probe, and ii) a portable, continuous-depth at discrete time, capacitance probe. Field results indicated that capacitance moisture probes were able to capture the passing of both an artificially and naturally induced moisture front, though quantitative correlation between the in-situ moisture content of the sampled MSW and the readings of the sensors could not be achieved. The reasons for this were a combination of three factors: 1. The introduction of void-space during sensor installation significantly reduced sensor output; 2. Poor MSW sampling technique resulted in 57% recovery (causing the exact origin of samples to be unknown); and 3. The sampling technique disturbed the MSW samples, resulting in incorrect volumetric moisture contents in the samples.



rapid stabilization, moisture sensing, capacitance sensors, municipal solid waste



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil and Geological Engineering


Civil and Geological Engineering


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