Transparent synthetic soils have been developed as a soil surrogate to enable internal visualization of geotechnical processes in physical models. Transparency of the soil dictates the overarching success of the technique; however, despite this fundamental requirement, no quantitative framework has yet been established to appraise the visual quality of transparent soil. Previous approaches to assess and optimize transparency quality included an eye chart assessment method, although this approach is highly subjective and operator-dependent. In this paper, an independent method for quantitatively assessing the optical quality of transparent soil is proposed based on the optical calibration method, Modulation Transfer Function (MTF). The work explores this hypothesis and assesses the potential for MTF to quantify the optical quality of transparent soils for a number of aspects including (i) optimum oil blend ratio, (ii) depth of viewing plane, and (iii) temperature. The results confirmed that MTF offers a robust and reliable method to provide an independent quantitative measure of the optical quality of transparent soil. The impact of reduced soil transparency and the ability to track speckle patterns—thus accuracy and precision of displacement measurement—was correlated with MTF to evaluate the permissible viewing depth of transparent soil.
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