Estimation of mean particle volume using the set covariance function

A.J. Cabo, A. J. Baddeley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientific


Our aim is to estimate the volume-weighted mean of the volumes of three-dimensional ‘particles’ (compact, not-necessarily-convex subsets) from plane sections of the particle population. The standard stereological technique is to place test lines in the plane section, and measure cubed intercept lengths with the two-dimensional particle profiles. This paper discusses more efficient estimators obtained by integrating over all possible placements of the test line. We prove that these estimators have smaller variances than the line transect estimators, and indeed are related to them by the Rao-Blackwell process. In the improved estimators, the cubed intercept length is replaced by a moment of the distance between two points in the section profile. This can be computed as a moment of the set covariance function, which in turn is computable using fast Fourier transform.
We also derive an isoperimetric type inequality between the improved estimator and the area-weighted 3/2 th moment of the profile areas. Finally, we present two practical applications to particles of silicon carbide and to synaptic boutons in brain tissue. We estimate the variance of the technique and the gain in efficiency over line transect techniques; the efficiency improvement appears to be as much as one order of magnitude.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 27-46
JournalAdvances in Applied Probability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


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