Mean-intercept anisotropy analysis of porous media. II. Conceptual shortcomings of the MIL tensor definition and Minkowski tensors as an alternative

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Structure-property relations, which relate the shape of the microstructure to physical properties such as transport or mechanical properties, need sensitive measures of structure. What are suitable fabric tensors to quantify the shape of anisotropic heterogeneous materials? The mean intercept length is among the most commonly used characteristics of anisotropy in porous media, e.g., of trabecular bone in medical physics. Yet, in this series of two papers we demonstrate that it has conceptual shortcomings that limit the validity of its results.


We test the validity of general assumptions regarding the properties of the mean-intercept length tensor using analytical formulas for the mean-intercept lengths in anisotropic Boolean models (derived in part I of this series), augmented by numerical simulations. We discuss in detail the functional form of the mean intercept length as a function of the test line orientations.


As the most prominent result, we find that, at least for the example of overlapping grains modeling porous media, the polar plot of the mean intercept length is in general not an ellipse and hence not represented by a second-rank tensor. This is in stark contrast to the common understanding that for a large collection of grains the mean intercept length figure averages to an ellipse. The standard mean intercept length tensor defined by a least-square fit of an ellipse is based on a model mismatch, which causes an intrinsic lack of accuracy.


Our analysis reveals several shortcomings of the mean intercept length tensor analysis that pose conceptual problems and limitations on the information content of this commonly used analysis method. We suggest the Minkowski tensors from integral geometry as alternative sensitive measures of anisotropy. The Minkowski tensors allow for a robust, comprehensive, and systematic approach to quantify various aspects of structural anisotropy. We show the Minkowski tensors to be more sensitive, in the sense, that they can quantify the remnant anisotropy of structures not captured by the mean intercept length analysis. If applied to porous tissue and microstructures, this improved structure characterization can yield new insights into the relationships between geometry and material properties.

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