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Electrical Resistivity of SoilSoil Resistivity Fundamentals and the Soil Resistivity Meter

By Rex A. Crouch

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Copyrighted © by Rex A. Crouch, 2008 Page 2 of 20

the fundamentals of soil resistivity.Electrical Resistivity of Soil Soil Resistivity Fundamentals and the Soil Resistivity Meter By Rex A. graphing and interpreting the data collected. data graphing. building and operation of a soil resistivity meter. interpretation. Page 3 of 20 . and results. The paper then addresses the basics. Crouch Abstract This paper is a learning tool addressing soil resistivity consisting of an introduction to electrical resistivity. a brief history.

and natural philosopher. All original techniques assumed a single uniform overburden with a second layer being of indefinite thickness. This occurs as a sulfide breaks down into a sulfate. new formulas and methods of calculation were developed which created a more inclusive picture of the subsurface features [1] and [4]. Wenner was the forerunner in this technique. with an increase in current and accuracy. located in United States. This is an indicator of an ore body that may be residing in a moist environment. The equipment shortfall did not entail enough current for deep penetration nor were the meters accurate enough to distinguish between multiple layers. Passive means would be the measurement of self-potential which is sometimes called spontaneous potential. began applying current into the ground. While a multitude of other approaches have been applied with Rooney and Gish presenting strong techniques. Brief History. Fox. prevailed as the most effective. Fox’s techniques were passive in approach. Electrical resistivity means of prospecting is documented in the 1830s through experiments conducted by Robert W. which will be addressed in detail.Introduction. an English geologist. England. the operator times how long the potential difference lasts after the current is removed for the purpose of identifying large subsurface conductors. and accurate techniques in active electrical resistivity measurement. Not until the 1920s did the approach become active wherein Schlumberger. the Schlumberger and Wenner methods. These aforementioned means are considered active as the operator is inducing a current into the ground for the purpose of measuring a potential difference. and Wenner. and measuring the potential difference. a direct current may be applied in lieu of an alternating current thus causing an induced polarization in subsurface features wherein. Electrical resistivity of soil may be made with low frequency alternating current in which the current is applied at two locations. Along this same method. Page 4 of 20 . Fox concentrated his experiments on sulfide ore deposits near Cornwall. as used in physics. Hummel with impressive theoretical techniques. This paper will focus on the Schlumberger and Wenner methods. located in France. and the potential difference is measured between two points where the term potential difference. One initial shortfall was equipment. means voltage difference.

In this formula the term V represents voltage and R represents resistance. Ohm. Resistivity is the relation of resistance. and resistivity [1]. Current is determined by charge in columbs over a given period of time in seconds where current is represented as I. current density. area. and the area is represented by an A. and time as t. I q t j I A Ohms law is the relation of voltage. and current. and current and is written as: R A I Page 5 of 20 .Basic Formulas. Ohm’s law. There are four basic formulas employed when discussing electrical resistivity and these are current. This was first presented by the German physicist Georg S. columbs in q. resistance. I V R Current density is the amount of current flowing through a particular area in which the current density is represented by a j.

The distances r1. and in both cases it does not matter which is labeled 1 or 2. we label these C1 and C2. r2. Using the below formula we can solve for the resistivity [1].Generalizing the Concept. 2 A V I 1 r1 1 r2 1 1 r3 1 r4 The apparent resistivity is a sampling of one location. Figure 1 represents a generalized configuration of a soil resistivity measurement figure 1 In this configuration we see that the current measurement is taken through the voltage source where the positive end is considered the source. The curved lines running through the ground from C1 to C2 represent how the current may flow through a homogeneous soil. r3. r4 represent the distances between posts. The voltage measurement is represented by P1 and P2. For convenience. 2 I V 1 r1 1 r2 1 1 r3 1 r4 This is also known as the apparent resistivity. and the negative end is considered the sink. Multiple samplings will help to discern variation in Page 6 of 20 .

In either case. Within this field there are various potential differences between all of the possible points that may be chosen. and subsequently variations in the subsurface features.resistivity. a homogeneous space is the easiest to work with or model [4]. The character of the electrical field depends on the properties of the space that the current is passing through. A strong electrical field will occur in moist silt whereas a weak field will occur in dry gravel. Page 7 of 20 . the electric current is applied to the medium creating an electrical field. In terms of homogeneous space.

figure 3 Page 8 of 20 . 1 2. rho 1 has a lower resistivity than rho 2. and placing them in figure 2. if you were to place your voltage probes as represented in figure 1 into figure 3. and the majority of the current passes through the rho 1. 1 2. As current is applied to the ground. you would have a low voltage measurement because the majority of the current is passing through a lower layer with lower resistivity. Conversely. This is the foundation for a horizontal interface in electrical resistivity. you would have a high voltage measurement as most of your current is passing through the area you are measuring. rho 1 has a higher resistivity then rho 2 and the majority of the current passes through the rho 2.Current in Multiple Layers. it will always attempt to follow the path of least resistance or the path of lowest resistivity In figure 2 below. You can easily imagine taking your voltage probes as represented in figure 1. The next step is to apply this information to the two most common approaches of resistivity measurements figure 2 In figure 3 below.

2.16. As resistivity graphing is done in a log log plot. 1. and accepted methods of conducting soil resistivity surveys. each are similar yet use distinct approaches with their individual pros and cons. The Schlumberger method is faster in that you have to move all of the post fewer times.47. In this respect. and C2 after every measurement and remember to turn the power off prior to moving the posts.64. You may begin with a separation of 1 meter between each of the probes. it may be best to make the spacing 1. it is the fact that the spacing between each of the probes is exactly the same. The Wenner method is the most simple to apply. 3.0. Both the Schlumberger and Wenner use the same configuration as seen in figure 1. 4. then 10 meters. Then the distance between C1 and C2 is increased and then you may increase the distance between P1 and P2 to 1. Figure 5 below depicts how the Schlumberger configuration may appear.47 meters. Figure 4 below depicts a standard Wenner configuration maintaining the same spacing between post. P2. and conduct the traverse again.Basics of Conducting Soil Resistivity Surveys. The Schlumberger method takes more thought upfront because the spacing between the post must maintain the relationship of 2L > 5M.0 meters and increase this distance in decades. As previously mentioned. Wenner. The distance is not so much important. then increase it to 5 meters between each of the probes. and 10. In this configuration the C1 and C2 posts remain stationary during the survey and the P1 and P2 posts traverse between C1 and C2 but maintain the same separation from each other.15. the Schlumberger and Wenner methods are the two most commonly used. figure 4 Schlumberger. This is to say that during the first traverse P1 and P2 will remain 1 meter apart. Page 9 of 20 . 6. The drawback to using the Wenner method is that you must move P1.81. The spacing of the probes are maintained the same throughout the survey.

8 4. measurements were taken: Measurement 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Ohms 4 3.2 3.2 3.8 3. and if done in the aforementioned increments will be easy to plot on the paper. Graphing and Interpreting.figure 5 An additional consideration is that the Schlumberger configuration does not require that you remain on a straight traverse line but have the freedom to move your P1 and P2 to the left and right of the traverse as demonstrated in the below map view as derived by Roman [4].8 6.8 3.2 3.2 3. figure 6 Applying some entirely fictional data to log log graph for the purposes of understanding.4 6.2 3. Figure 6 below depicts such a graph.2 3 3 2.2 3.2 25 map view 1. Table 1. In the following table.6 3.6 6.4 3. Applying this data to the same graph we can develop this image: Page 10 of 20 .2 3. we can develop something to interpret.6 6.2 3. Graphing the information is done on a log log plot.8 5.6 5.2 3.

Department of Transportation. even more sharply back to resistance similar to left hand side of the graph. In an apparent resistivity survey. this can also be interpreted as four contact layers which is not much different than what was described above.2 Ohms where it levels out. While modern soil resistivity meters will take the guess work out of this. the image depicts a contrast between low resistivity clay. The following information was derived from the U. and higher resistivity limestone. as well as presenting the scenario of a cavern or cave in which resistance would approach infinity during measurements an as there is nothing to conduct the current in an apparent resistivity profile. We can guess that there was undoubtedly an intrusion of some kind. . Of course this data is fictional but real materials have real resistivity measured in Ohms meters There are multiple tables to assist you in determining what material you may be working with. Page 11 of 20 Material Clay and marl Loam Top soil Clayey soils Sandy soils Typical mine water Typical surface water Shale Limestones Sandstones Coal Ohm Meters 1 to 100 5 to 50 50 to 100 100 to 500 500 to 5000 1 to 10 5 to 50 10 to 80 80 to 1000 50 to 8000 500 to 5000 Table 2. [2] but by no means is comprehensive as all materials changes in Ohm meters based on a variety of factors using silt.8 Ohms. The below figure was developed on concepts presented in the Interpretation of Resistivity Data [3]. We can easily envision a gentle decline in resistivity layer and then something of much higher resistivity intrudes and levels off for several measurement locations before dropping back. but the below mine water mentioned will change based on the pH level of the water. it changes based on water content as well as sand percentage as well as other minerals present. The next data point jumped to 5. Ohms meters as an example. and climbed slightly leveling for a brief moment and then dropped dramatically to 3. The first part of the graph decreases in resistivity over the first ten measurements and then abruptly stops. figure 7 Without applying any formulas we can conduct some simple deductions from this.S.

a homemade system would report in Amperage and Voltage with the distance between probes being measured by myself. and saved in my default MATLAB folder. As professional systems report findings in Ohms meter. detection of multiple layers.multi-meters are employed to monitor amperage. My system uses a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery which runs into a DC/AC off-the-shelf inverter providing a clean AC. Most professional systems only use AC. The basic survey with the Wenner and Schlumberger methods were discussed. Soil resistivity meters are actually very simple to build. and introduced the fundamental formulas employed. or the user. Clean is meant to mean that there is little to no noise on the 60 Hz waveform unlike the 60 Hz that comes from a wall outlet in which there are spikes. To compensate for this break in technology from the commercial to the homemade system. Building a Soil Resistivity Meter. and graph the data in a log log plot. Below is my MATLAB script: Page 12 of 20 . The next step is to build and use a soil resistivity meter to see all of the theory come together. regardless of how long or short the data is or the spacing between the posts. I mounted the entire system is an allterrain cart for easy movement. then enter the data into an Excel spreadsheet which I named resistivity. Two highly sensitive figure 9. I wrote a MATLAB application for use specifically in the Wenner configuration. and voltage. The application allowed me to handwrite the data. Below is a block diagram of my system: figure 8. Summarizing the Theory. Thus far this paper has examined the history and concepts of soil resistivity. and graphing. I wanted to have the same performance as a commercial unit which required the use of AC but I also wanted to use straight DC for the purpose of creating induced polarization in conductive ore bodies. the application will import the data set. When the MATLAB application is ran. I designed my resistivity meter for portability as well as functionality. and even low points (brown outs). For conducting induced polarization the inverter is removed from the system and the 12 volt source is use to apply the current. and interpretation were also presented.

1)]) loglog(B) % plotting the data as loglog % Graph Titles and Labels title('Soil Resistivity Reading') ylabel('Resistivity Scale (Ohm/Meters)') xlabel('Electrode Separation (Meters)') text(10^.% Written by Rex A. % Establishing the distance variable voltage=(A(:.'Area Name') text(10^.'GPS DATA') B % Display the array for saving % End of script Script 1 Page 13 of 20 .3. % Establishing the current variable B=zeros(size(distance)).2)).edu % For: Special Topics in Geophysics ./current).1)).14.xls').14*distance. Crouch % racrouch@mtu.01 % Soil Resistivity Graphing % This script accompanies a soil resistivity meter I built % For simple one layer models using AC equidistant probe spacing % This script Does the following: %* Opens an Excel file named "resistivity" %* The scripts conducts a P calculation at each increment in the file %* Saves the data to a blank array "B" which is the same size as the data %* Plots the data saved in "B" as a loglog plot %* Produces an array named "B" that may be used to imagesc diagrams %================================ clear % Clearing all variables clf % Clearing any figure or graphs A=xlsread('resistivity. % Establishing the voltage variable current=(A(:.3)).2. end m=max(distance). % Finding the max distance in the array z=max(p). % Creating a column the same size as the imported vector %'for loop' increments through the data index by index for i=1:size(B).10^2.*(voltage.10^2. % Load the Resisitivy Excel file distance=(A(:. p=2*3. B=p. % Finding the max resistance in the array % Establishing Axis bounds on the graph to % the max distance and resistivity + 10% overage axis ([0 m 0 z+(z*.GE 4933 .2.

My next application of the soil resistivity meter was along the Green Stone ridge on Cliff Drive on the south side of the North America Mine. Because I was running near perpendicular to the strike I was Page 14 of 20 . The below image is of me taking measurements at the first test-run site. thus my first application was confirmed. graph 1. The below graph is from my very first test-run of the resistivity meter at the mentioned location. Using the Wenner method. The green line was a function I applied to data to show a curve while maintaining the form of the data. and produced a log log graph. roughly 50 foot.5 meter separation in the posts and increased in increments of 1. Pewabic lode. I have previous inspected this area from underground through one of the civil war era drifts in the Quincy Mine. I knew the dip angle of the stratigraphic layers was about 45 degrees and that there was in fact a significant conductive ore body at my test-run survey site. separations in each of the posts. With data from the USGS. footwall. and a hanging wall [5] were all well known here. image 1. and the area.5 meters until I had reached 15 meter.My first test-run of the my soil resistivity meter was conducted adjacent to the road that parallels the Quincy Mine. the known layers are an overburden. the blue line represents the raw data where the resistivity continued to climb and then dropped sharply leveling out to a constant low and then begin to climb again. In conducting a passive survey from the surface using the Geonics EM 16. This is what I was expecting to see. next to the Quincy fire station (above Hancock. I began with a 1. MI along state road 41). Subsequently. had not been fully stoped. The graph indicated that we went through several different contact layers to include an area that could be considered highly conductive. At this point I knew I had passed the ore body in question but the raw data on a piece of paper made little sense so returned to my computer to enter the data. Graph 1 is produced by my MATLAB script. I also confirmed a very strong conductive ore body. although copper rich.

For these two reasons I chose to use the Schlumberger method. needles.1 mA to 2. Going to the Copper County Archives. I ran a second traverse line still N40W. the terrain was very rugged. present and plunging in the direction of the dipping stratigraphic layers. As no development was going to take place on the football field. falling rocks. and worked on my own conclusions. trees. but without the best fit curve the data was otherwise complicated as depicted above. The data depicted what I would interpret as possibly six contacts with strong variation in the conductivity of the various layers. Considering the terrain and the fact that a stream was at the top of the ridge but disappeared into a hole—left me to believe that this fluctuation may represent a pulsating flow of an underground stream. were somewhat as expected when applying a best fit curve which removed many jumps in data. The first anomaly was the current reading. other than the fluctuating current. As many items in the archives cannot be photographed or photocopied I redrew the map by hand graph 2 To confirm the data. and had lost is shading. this area was not mapped but the contour lines stopping at the edge of the football field could be used to help confirm my data. My second test run was over a known area of geologic stratigraphy. The current rapidly fluctuated between 1. I reviewed multiple articles on current but found nothing that immediately explained why it fluctuated. and growling noises that came from the cave like cavities in between the rocks. I wanted a flat area to work with this time.manufacturing and asked how their professional systems reconciled this problem. Considering that. My traverse line was N40W running 150 meters.3 mA. I also wanted to develop some knowledge about the area before working on it. I assumed a mean current of 1. Also. I researched mapping of the area and found a bedrock mapping of the area as well as a soil resistivity mapping of the area in preparation for construction of the Student Development Center (SDC).expecting to see dike like features. The soil resistivity mapping was based on various gray scale shading. I also contacted several leaders in -soil resistivity meter. The MTU football field is probably the largest and flattest area around Houghton. 18 meters S50W away from the first traverse line and found that the two major features in the middle of the graph were still Page 15 of 20 . bushes. and the results. Michigan. I received no responses.7 mA for all calculations. and was of no use but the bedrock mapping was still usable. The running of a second traverse to confirm data from the first traverse has inspired the thought of creating a contouring script for visualizing an entire area. an area without boulders. Choosing the site was the first consideration.

There were four measurements taken using the Wenner method on each traverse line beginning with a 10 meter separation and increasing in increments of 10 meters. I then wrote another short script to take the matrix. Bedrock Survey compiled by W. The data was collected. Because of this. On file at the Copper Country Achieves. There were probably some sections of fill-in as well. The first observation that was made was the topography. John and J Ringler Date: unknown (assumed to be before construction of MTU SDC. Redrawn by R. Crouch 25 May 2007 Below is a picture which represents how my system was setup: 80 120 140 160 140 120 100 80 image 2. Below is my redrawing of the area in question. 80 MTU FOOTBALL FIELD 160 140 180 140 N My cart. The northeast side of the football field had been built-up about 4 meters to make the field level. behind me in the photo. I ran six traverse lines 30 meters apart to include the entire field. contained most of the equipment used in the survey: 120 figure 10 I conducted the survey over the football field behind the STC on 9 Jun 2007.A.c. and ran through the script I presented earlier. I do not expect the data from the northeast side of the field to be truly representative of nature. MTU. This included the area that had been built-up in the northeast side of the field. and create a contour map of resistivity measurements. and Ohms per meter data for each traverse line. Page 16 of 20 . Drawer 48.retaining it to scale to the best of my ability. I used this data to create a matrix of resistivity data that covers the entire field. This provided the log log plots for each traverse. image 3.

colorbar caxis([-20 20]) % Graph Titles and Labels title('Soil Resistivity Reading') % End of script Script 2 Page 17 of 20 .Below is the script used for creating my subsurface contour map: % Written by Rex A.1555] %Ohms per meter 1X10^7 C=contourf(A.1005 2.0598 1.9546 1.055 0.0816 0.2449 0.2638 1.edu % For: Special Topics in Geophysics .8245 1.01 % Soil Resistivity Graphing % This script accompanies a soil resistivity meter I built % For creating a contour of resistivity based on previous input % This script Does the following saves the data from the resistivity matrix % as "A" and then conducts a contour map of the resistivity %================================ A= [1.7285 2.5652 2.2512 0.884 0.1256 0.4821 0.7898 3.10).1352 1.3391 0.GE 4933 .1053 0. Crouch % racrouch@mtu.9028 0.4366 0.6908 0.0942 1.6077 1.

Despite this difference in data types. is a time intensive task. but the actual applied geophysics is a hands-on adventure. and can see this as being a study in of itself. the employment of the four lead system. I found that the Wenner method was the easiest to employ with a self built 4 lead system because it gave the most control. in the very south corner of the contour map Page 18 of 20 . The northeast section of the football field that was built-up does not really correlate to the bedrock diagram on the northeast edge. and ease in calculations. and addressing resistivity surveys in general. we see the imaging going to yellow again being the area of the field adjacent to a stream. The theory of geophysics is fine. If you were to remove this built-up overburden in the northeast of the football field you could envision the contour lines finding a common ground. I have to note that they are an effective way of visualizing the subsurface. Mindful that this is two different types of data-the bedrock data and the resistivity data. The fill areas of the football field were probably the darkest green. Setting this topic aside.The contour plot was then taken and placed over the football field. Also. but I can see that the Schlumberger method would be the most effective with a multi-lead self calculating system. figure 11 Looking further southwest we see lower resistivity values approaching yellow in color which more closely correspond to the tight contour lines of the bedrock topography. I highly recommend any student interested in geophysics to build their own equipment whenever possible as it brings you closers to understanding the system you are studying. particularly while working alone. Summary. Despite this drawback I will continue to use the system because it is effective. I am still not entirely sure how to treat/interpret an area that may have rapidly flowing underground water sources. correlations can still be drawn. and identifying various layers with minimal cost associated with the equipment however.

Example of Schlumberger Configuration derived from [1]. Crouch April 2007 Figure 5. Sheehan. illustrated by R.S. U. illustrated by R. infinite resistance caverns derived from [3]. U. illustrated by R. 224. Introduction to Applied Geophysics: Exploring the Shallow Subsurface.A. Apparent Resistivity of a Single Uniform Overburden: Geological Survey Professional Paper 365. illustrated by R.A. Crouch May 2007 Figure 8. and Jones. illustrated by R. Crouch April 2007 Figure 4.S. Example of loglog graphing. U. Geophysical Technologies for Detecting Underground Coal Mine Voids: Applications of the Electrical Resistivity Method for Detection of Underground Mine Workings. low conductive limestones.A. [1] Burger. 1960. Example of Wenner Configuration derived from [1]. eds.A. 1966. Interpretation of Resistivity Data: Geological Survey Professional Paper 499. Example of layering when layer 1 has lower resistivity then layer 2 [1]. [4] Roman. illustrated by R.W. Example of layering when layer 2 has lower resistivity then layer 1 [1]. Example of loglog graphing as used with fictional data. Norton & Company Inc [2] Johnson and Monroeville. Department of the Interior. 1992.A. Crouch May 2007 Figure 7. Crouch April 2007 Figure 2.A. illustrated by R. [5] Pewabic Amygdaloid Lodes. eds. illustrated by R. 2005. Department of the Interior.Works Cited. Basic configuration of soil resistivity system derived from [1]. eds. Crouch April 2007 Figure 6. Crouch April 2007 Figure 3.A. Crouch May 2007 Figure 9. illustrated by R. Example of resisitivty measurements over an area that includes high conductive clays.S. Block diagram of a soil resistivity system.A. New York: W. Crouch May 2007 Page 19 of 20 . Department of Transportation [3] Nostrand and Cook. USGS Professional Paper 144 p 178-181 Figure 1. eds.A.

A. Image 1. R. MATLAB script. Crouch collecting data during initial test run of system during the first quarter of May 2007. R. Crouch. illustrated by R. compiled by W Johnson and J Ringler (undated). in support of Figure 7. R. Graph 1.A. Crouch May 2007.A. Script 2. Fictional data to develop a working example of plotting on log log graphs.Figure 10. Matrix of resistivity into a contour plot. map drawer 48c. Table depicting resistance of some materials. Resistivity system as used on football field behind SDC during the second quarter of June 2007 Script 1. Crouch. Table 1. Crouch May 2007.A. map drawer 48c.A. MI).A. May 2007. MI). R. Page 20 of 20 .A. R. Graph from data collected during initial test run of soil resistivity meter orthogonal to the strike along the road adjacent to the fire station next to Quincy Mine (Houghton Co. Derived from [2]. amperage. compiled by W Johnson and J Ringler (undated). illustrated by R. Representation of the subsurface bedrock of the area adjacent to the MTU football field derived from the Copper Country Archives. June 2007. Crouch May 2007 Figure 11. Crouch May 2007. Crouch May 2007 with overlay of resistivity contour map.A. R. Graph from data collected during second test run of soil resistivity meter near base of Green Stone Ridge running parallel to the strike along Cliff Drive (Keweenaw Co. Image 2. Table 2. Representation of the subsurface bedrock of the area adjacent to the MTU football field derived from the Copper Country Archives. Crouch collecting data during initial run on football field behind SDC during the second quarter of June 2007 Image 3. Graph 2. and voltage into a log log plot. R.A. MATLAB script. Converting distance.