You are on page 1of 6

Advantages and Disadvantages of Moisture Probes for the Construction Industry

Moisture probes must meet diverse requirements for the deployment in sand, gravel, and fresh concrete within the construction industry.
The accordance with norm-conformity at the production of ready-mixed concrete, SCC and other types of concrete is increasingly gaining
in significance. Hereby, the concrete expert is frequently confronted with the question, if and how these requirements can be met. The
following elaborations represent an article addressing the advantages of moisture probes based on the TDR radar technology.
Author: Kurt Koehler, Managing Director of the IMKO GmbH

The extreme ambient conditions in the construction industry are
demanding consistently higher to the measuring technology. With the
achievement of an accuracy of ±1 picoseconds at the measurement of
the radar run-time, it was subsequently possible to deploy radar probes
within the construction industry. The TDR measurement principle (TimeDomain-Reflectometry, also referred to as „cable radar“) has managed

to increasingly assert itself for demanding applications as a new and
precise measurement method within the industrial sector. At the TDR
method, the dielectricity constant of an electro-magnetic impulse, and
consequently the moisture, is determined via the run-time (time domain

Why is it so important to measure the moisture in sand, gravel,
fresh concrete, and other materials very precisely, i.e. with
accuracies of at least ±0.3%, respectively ±0.1%?
The following simple exemplary calculation intends to illustrate the
connection between %-moisture values delivered by a moisture probe
which features errors and the respectively connected effects upon the
w/c value:
The example applies to 1 m3 of ready mixed concrete consisting of:

Gravel (2..16)

: 1850kg in total
: 700kg
: 1150kg

Water content
(nominal value)
Nominal w/c-value

: 320kg
: 176 Litres
: 0.55

At a medium moisture content of 5% in the aggregates, this results in
a water content in the aggregates of 97 litres. At a nominal/target value
of 176 litres per m3, this would result in 79 litres which would have to be
added to obtain a correct w/c nominal value of 0.55 at a cement content
of 320 kg.
If a moisture probe measures at an error rate of ±1.5% absolute, this
would result in significant deviations at the w/c content. In the event of
a deviation of the moisture measurement value in downward direction,
one would be issued a w/c value of 0.64, and 0.45 in case of a deviation
in upward direction (remark: this would naturally be noticed immediately
and according measures would be taken). At an error rate of the probe of
±0.3% (±6 litres/m3), depending on the demands made to the concrete,
this could result in still acceptable deviations of the w/c value of ±0.02, i.e.
the final w/c value would either be 0.57 or 0.53.
An error rate of ±1.5% of a moisture probe is equivalent to a difference of
±30 litres at the water content in sand and gravel, which would considerably
influence the w/c value and the Exposition Class. A moisture probe must
at least feature an accuracy of ±0.3%, preferably even ±0.1%.
The cause and how easily measurement errors of ±1.5% in a moisture
probe can be generated is depicted in this article.

even the slightest ion-contamination or higher temperature deviations can lead to significant measurement errors.5%.g. • The form of the grain may vary from round to crushed stone.1% at these conditions and the required expedition classes. At conventional aggregate probes so far. A further issue is. Due to an ideal frequency band. if it is sufficient to merely measure the moisture in the sand but not in the gravel? The 30 litres mentioned in the example above would also be contained. In order to be able to measure precisely with an accuracy of ±0. • Some special concretes.g.5% of a moisture probe accords to ±30 litres at 1m3 fresh concrete. • Materials such as lime sand feature significant adhesive properties. • Both the probe and the measured media are exposed to significant temperature variations. • Sand and gravel may contain pure water but also water with a high ion content (e.g.5% of a moisture probe accords to +-30 litres at 1m3 fresh concrete. to sand. grain or split.The water quantity of a measurement error of +-1. right up to gravel size 2-16/32. High and low temperatures during winter and summer operation. if the same would feature a moisture content of merely 2. e. e.g. . They should be mixed with accuracies of ±1. in combination with exposure to steam. conductivities up to 50dS/m can be generated and demand a high level of precision of the probe technology.5 litres per m3 in order to obtain the demanded qualities. • The measured media features differing grain sizes. The water quantity of a measurement error of ±1. may not lead to faulty measurements at a probe. a moisture probe should meet four decisive requirements. The result was that the operators switched the plant from the automatic mode to the manual operation mode. This means that in the event of aggregates containing recycled water or sand from coastal areas. This results in a high level of accuracy even under the harshest ambient conditions. in the additional charge of 1150 kg gravel. e. SCC contain special additives. from finest particles. the measurement value may not be falsified. 1. This means that the moisture content of larger quantities of aggregates should also be measured precisely and on a long term stable basis in order to ensure for sufficient product quality. In moist mixtures with cement. What are the ambient conditions a moisture probe has to deal Four decisive requirements to moisture probes for the within the construction industry? construction industry: • If operated permanently. recycled water or sand from areas close to the coast) • Special compositions my contain ratios of steel (steel fibre concrete) • Fresh concrete may feature a pore-water-conductivity of up to 50dS/m. Requirement: The probe must be able to precisely measure at varying temperatures and varying ion ratios in the water. the probe is exposed to considerable abrasion. Remark: The aforementioned extreme ambient conditions have frequently generated doubt in regard to the reliability of the measurement values delivered by conventional moisture probes already shortly after installation. SONO radar probes are not influenced by increased conductivities in the water or temperature deviations.

Sand and gravel feature different grain sizes. Requirement: The reliable moisture measurement at varying grain sizes. SONO radar probes. Only this innovative invention made the long-term stable deployment of SONO radar probes within the construction industry possible in the first place. This requirement is of particular significance. gravel. depending on the moisture content. before abrasion after abrasion At the SONO radar technology. Microwave probes in comparison. an innovative probe design featuring a centrally located conductor foil on the extremely robust and stable ceramic cover ensures that the field line strength does not change in spite of abrasion. What use is a moisture sensor. feature a distinctive dependency in regard to the particle size and form. An auto-correction function in the SONO probes ensures for consistent reliabilities and maintenance cycles. do not lead to a falsification of the measurement results. and gravel/sand mixtures. The SONO radar technology offers high reliabilities at the measurement of sand and gravel. even at sands with finest fractions. The deviations of the six sand/gravel types presented below to the calibration curve Cal1 are so insignificant that the SONO Probe only require the deployment of one calibration curve. 3. The calibration curve Cal1 „Universal Calibration“ is suited for the measurement of the moisture in sand (finest grain sand). generate measuring errors in the %-range. the measuring field lines had to pass through the ceramic plate before entering the sand and gravel. Even the slightest abrasion lead to a change of the measuring field and. Requirement: Long-Term Stability at Abrasion. in regard to the grain size distribution. due to a high level of high-frequency stray. in contrary to other measurement method. if it is only able to deliver precise/constant measurements for a short period and delivers faulty values after only a few weeks of deployment? Microwave and capacitance method SONO Sensors Different measurement field. do feature some interference which is however insignificant. depending on the abrasion Constant measurement field. as differing grain sizes. At the conventional moisture probes so far.2. . Moisture probes should not be influenced by the particle size and form and the subsequently connected high-frequency stray. regardless of abrasion dielectric barrier (sensorhead) before abrasion after abrasion Moisture probes are usually equipped with a ceramic faceplate which may lead to errors in the %-range in the event of abrasion.

The radar method deployed in the SONO probes. .4. The novel mixer probe SONO-MIX delivers two parameters: P1: Moisture Value P2: Cement Value via the measurement of the RbC (Radar-based-Conductivity) Currently. there are investigations on how this novel measuring method could be directly deployed during the mixing process itself. Requirement: The additional Determination of the Cement Content in a Mixture. in order to receive additional information regarding the w/c value and the slope of the fresh concrete. also offers a completely novel method for the determination of the material composition in fresh concrete. in addition to the measurement of the moisture.

Faulty sensors can lead to cost-intensive non-normconform concrete. new measurement technologies such as the SONO radar measurement technology represent a decisive contribution to improve quality. also delivers a radar-based guide value (RbC– Radar based Conductivity). we have tested a multitude of moisture sensors. „Over the years. at the SONO probes. in addition to the moisture value. Concluding Remark : The general demands made to moisture sensors within the construction industry are very high. high security by quality production according to standards What enterprises from the concrete industry say: Numerous enterprises from the concrete industry have in the mean time convinced themselves of the advantages of the SONO radar probes. the cement content or the slope of fresh concrete. and lower costs with an optimum use of resources. Significant cost savings by using state-of-the-art SONO moisture probes! For plant manufacturers and plant operators: Elimination of errors. Users should however also be clear in regard to the limitations of the individual measuring methods in order to be able to identify possible disappointment in the forefront. we can now fully concentrate on the important matters within our production”. does not make any compromises. This value allows for important conclusions to further parameters of a material recipe. Whereas in former times we had to recalibrate the sensors every 10 days. The novel and innovative radar measuring method. reduced maintenance due to long-term stability without recalibrations. Abb. One of these is the company Peterbeton in Karlsruhe which. Apart from the SONO probes. IMKO is presenting a new generation of moisture probes for the construction industry. . Their secret: the deployment of most modern radar technology. considerably less acquisition costs. The feature most astounding to us is the low maintenance expenditure. no other system has managed to really completely convince us. They are deploying three SONO moisture probes for the precise measurement of the aggregates sand and gravel. it represents a significant contribution to the prevention of cost-intensive quality errors. As the plant director Herr Kütemeier confirms. in regard to their plant control system. less waste. e. also usable with recyclingwater. In times in which quality and reliability are consistently gaining in significance.: SONO-Probes are measuring the moisture on the discharge and on a conveyor belt.With the SONO probes. easier and quicker to put into operation.g. Consequently.

de IMKO GmbH Im Stöck 2 Germany-76275 Ettlingen Phone +49-(0)72 43-59 210 Fax +49-(0)72 43-59 21 40 e-mail INFO@IMKO.imko.PRECISE MOISTURE MEASUREMENT SONO Moisture Sensors for industrial Deployment The sensors‘ decisive lead is generated by the deployment of state-of-the-art TRIME®-Radartechnology .