Plastic tarps are used during soil fumigation to control fumigant emissions. They have been shown to be permeable to fumigant vapors, resulting in appreciable losses to the atmosphere. New low-permeability films are being developed to reduce fumigant emissions and increase chemical efficacy. A rapid, reliable and sensitive method is required to measure the permeability of various films.
An approach has been developed for estimating the mass transfer coefficient (h) of fumigant compounds diffusing across agricultural films. The h is a measure of the resistance to diffusion which, unlike other measures of permeability, is a property of the film-chemical combination and independent of the concentration gradient across the film. This method uses static sealed cells; fumigant vapor is spiked to one side of the film and the concentrations on both sides of the film are monitored until equilibrium. An analytical model is fitted to the data to obtain h. This model relies on a mass balance approach, and includes sorption to and diffusion across the film membrane. The method was tested using two polyethylene films and a very low-permeability film, and showed that the method produces a sensitive and reproducible measure of film permeability.