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GG 450

Lecture 19

February 26, 2006

Ground Penetrating Radar

Contrary to popular belief, GPR or Ground Penetrating/Probing Radar, is not a new technology. The first uses were in Austria in 1929, but the technology was largely abandoned until the late 1950's when U.S. Air Force radars were seeing through ice as planes tried to land in Greenland, misreading the altitude and crashing into the ice.

This started investigations into the ability of radar to see into the subsurface not only for ice sounding but also mapping subsoil properties and the water table. GPR systems have been in commercial use for over 30 years. It is only recently that the environmental, construction and utility industries have discovered the multiple uses and benefits of performing GPR surveys to gain forehand knowledge of what's underground and in walls. GPR surveys are now being specified into engineering designs, environmental assessments and maintenance programs.


radar uses electromagnetic waves.Description: Ground penetrating radar has many similarities with wave propagation methods in subsurface imaging for oil exploration. as the physical processes involved in signal transmission are very different. . This analogy has been used to transfer technology from the petroleum industry to the geotechnical arena. The approach does have its limits. Seismic methods use acoustic waves.

GPR has become one of the instruments of choice for many small site investigations where a metallic object that is shallowly buried. such as an underground gasoline storage tank. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) has established itself as a successful technique for a wide range of shallow (< 50 m) subsurface evaluations. . must be located.Nonetheless.

It has the highest resolution in subsurface imaging of any geophysical method. from aircraft or satellites. . It may be performed from the surface of the earth. approaching centimeters under the right conditions. locate and quantitatively identify changes in electrical and magnetic properties in the ground. in a borehole or between boreholes.How does GPR work? • Ground penetrating radar uses electromagnetic wave propagation and scattering to image.

As the wave travels through the ground. A specially directed antenna emits the pulse into the ground. water) through which it travels. a pipeline. it is reflected. contaminant or re-bar in a matrix of soil or concrete. or objects. deflected and absorbed by varying degrees of the material (soil. As the radar reflects off of materials it ‘echo locates' materials. of different electromagnetic conductivity within a matrix. .A transducer generates a broadband (10-1000 MHZ) electromagnetic wave (impulse). storage tank. for instance.


mainly the amplitude. The radar unit will also analyze the characteristic properties of the waves.The receiver in the antenna will pick up the return signal to be processed by the radar unit. . On the same plot. the radar unit will assign a color to the vertically-scaled mark based on the severity of change in the return signal's amplitude and the emitting signal's amplitude. This severity of change in amplitude of the transmitted signal is based on the conductivity and dielectric properties of the reflective target. The radar unit will then plot a mark on a vertical scale based on the time it took for each signal to return.

The waves reflect off the subsurface interfaces as if they are mirror-like. assumed path actual path depth recorded reflection . Because of this. and point or circular reflectors will appear as hyperbolas. the image produced will not be a direct replica of the subsurface – sloping reflectors will appear to slope less than they really do.

Anything in the substrate that may block the beam will affect the data. Because the beam is a 45° cone.The pulse has to travel through the substrate before it gets to the reflector. and again through the substrate to get to the receiver. such a pipeline or re-bar. Objects within the matrix. . show up quite clearly as hyperbolas with amplitudes depending on their conductivity contrast. reflectors angled at greater than 45° cannot be seen.


Because the propagation of electromagnetic energy at radar frequencies is controlled by dielectric properties in geologic materials. The higher the resistivity. The dielectric permittivity of a material is strongly related to its resistivity. . the method is sensitive to changes in dielectric permittivity of the bulk material. the higher the dielectric permittivity. and the farther an electro-magnetic wave will propagate through that material without absorption.

and the porosity. which typically have a dielectric constant less than water. . This characteristic allows GPR to detect the water table under certain conditions. The presence of water filled pores increases the bulk dielectric permittivity from the value associated with the unsaturated state.The bulk dielectric permittivity of a rock formation is highly dependent upon the dielectric value of any pore fluid present. If pore water is replaced by organic compounds. electromagnetic energy will be reflected. the degree of saturation.

g-p-r. orientation. depending upon material size and shape of buried objects. Detectability of a subsurface feature depends upon contrast in electrical and magnetic properties. (http://www.htm) . and much more. and the geometric relationship with the antenna.400 meters. Quantitative interpretation through modeling can derive from ground penetrating radar data such information as depth.Depth of Investigation varies from less than a meter to over 5. density and water content of soils.

HIGH RESOLUTION REQUIRED? YES: use high frequencies DEEP PENETRATION REQUIRED? YES: use low frequencies .

to monitor a controlled spill of percholorethylene (PCE). [1993] describe the 1991 Borden experiment. .Sander et al. along with other geophysical techniques. a dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL). This technique will be most useful for monitoring contaminant movement during remediation efforts. in which GPR was used. This study points out the need for time-differential measurements to remove background effects to allow the detection of small dielectric changes. [1992] and Greenhouse et al.


. The radar unit emits and receives reflected signals up to a thousand times per second. or even by air. This can be done by hand. but the image or shape of the target is "seen" on the monitor. by vehicle. A GPR profile is generated when the antenna is moved along the surface. As a result. a GPR profile must be obtained. not only do the relative depths and "strengths" of the targets appear.GPR Data Collection: In order to generate an "image" of a buried object .

. The data can also be utilized in a 3-D program to yield a sub-surface profile of the area surveyed. The reflected energy pulses are acquired only in a narrow line directly below where the transects are taken and the positions of objects have to be correlated from line to line.A number of these transect lines need to be acquired to gain a precise location of the target in one direction. The same process must be done in the perpendicular direction to get a full picture of where objects are in the matrix.

etc. debris piles. all limit the accessibility of GPR data acquisition." . the search area has to be physically accessible. sharp inclines. Heavily wooded sites or areas containing cars. " The desired search area has to be clear enough so that you could push a shopping cart through it.An obvious problem with GPR data acquisition is site accessibility. Since the GPR antenna has to be moved over the area to be investigated. A good analogy when considering the accessibility of a GPR investigation (for most applications) is to use Geo-Graf's rule of thumb.

Typically. within the range of GPR antenna frequencies. Conversely. but at the "cost" of signal penetration. the frequency of the wave is a contributing factor in depth of GPR signal penetration. the lower the frequency of the pulse. . the greater the image resolution. but at the "cost" of data image resolution.In addition to the medium through which the GPR pulse travels. the higher the frequency. the deeper the signal penetration.


The type of antenna used will depend on the particular targets-of-concern. a 900 to 1500 MHz antenna would provide the best data. .This is due to the inherent properties of the Earth. For instance. in measuring concrete floor thickness or rebar spacing. a 120 MHz or 80 MHz antenna would be best. if the desired target is a UST or bed rock layers. However. that typically allow lower-frequency waves to travel farther within the subsurface.

What’s the wavelength of the signal at 100 MHz? Velocity = distance / time Wavelength = distance / cycle Frequency = cycles / time Wavelength = velocity / frequency = 3*108 m/sec / 108 cycles/sec = 3 meters .

Penetration in course grained sediments may be as much as 20 m and as little as 2 m in fine-grained materials. but penetrate only to shallow depths because waves are quickly attenuated. High frequency antennas (200 to 400 MHz) produce the highest resolution images. Low frequency (80 MHz) antennae produce poorer resolution images. but can penetrate more deeply into the subsurface. . It works poorly in moist finegrained sediments. Usually GPR can be used with several antennae sizes that produce waves of different frequencies.GPR works best in dry coarse-grained materials like sand and gravel.

time traces as the antennas are moved across the subsurface. and the Receiver records the echoes. and time (depth) into the ground. . These traces are plotted next to each other showing recorded amplitudes vs. The radar system constructs amplitude vs. distance along the profile. the Transmitter radiates short sharp pulses.The Radargram GPR data are presented as a radargram. As the antennas are moved across the surface. very much like a seismic reflection profile.

The resulting radargram appears in the form distance (horizontal axis) vs.6 nanoseconds/meter 12 .20 ns/m 20-35 ns/m 60.000 ns/m . The simplest conversion from time to depth requires that one know (or estimate) the velocity of the pulse in the ground. Typical timeto-depth conversion factors are given in the next table: Medium Air Dry geological materials Damp geological materials Water Time-to-Depth Conversion. time (vertical axis). (twoway travel-time) 6.


APPLICATIONS ENVIRONMENTAL & ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEYS mapping extent of contaminant plumes determining direction of contaminant migration locating buried storage tanks locating buried cold ice bedrock-ice contact can be mapped. Finding rebar or culverts during highway construction. ruins or treasures delineating boundaries of ancient cemeteries and locating burial plots Mapping gravel and sand deposits. . Finding caves or sinkholes. determining depth and quantifying volumes Glacial ice thicknesses .

water and sewer pipes for gas / oil facility surveys Assessing depth of sediment cover over pipeline river crossings and rights of way Determining depth to bedrock for proposed pipeline rights of way Aerial reconnaissance Survey depths up to 4 meters or more (depending on soil conditions . utility lines.see chart) GPR can be tied to a GPS to yield precise locations 3-D software allows results to be obtained with x. y and z coordinates .Oil & Gas: Location of pipelines.

fiber optics.CIVIL SURVEYS Accurate location of in-slab: structural steel (re-bar) stress cables electrical and communication conduits . .including PVC. telephone wiring and other nonferrous materials water and sewer pipes It is essential to avoid hitting these features when coring or drilling through a concrete slab during construction renovations.

Non-destructive and quiet. GPR can locate and characterize both metallic and non-metallic subsurface features. gravel. surface conditions are not a major factor. GPR can be thought of as a Subsurface Imaging System. Wide spatial coverage may be obtained. can be towed by a truck. and most other common surfaces. Requires only one or two people for field work. asphalt. . similar to sonar used for underwater applications. With GPR. Fast and economic . nondestructive and safe. High-resolution data in certain cases.Advantages of GPR As opposed to other locating techniques that are capable of detecting only metallic or conductive utilities and underground targets. Targets can be "seen" beneath reinforced concrete. It is completely nonintrusive.

Can be used in only specific sediment-bedrock terrains. Post-processing of data requires sophisticated computer software Information about dialectric properties must be known in order to convert to wave return times to depths. . Limited penetration depths. Requires trained people for data collection and interpretation.Disadvantages of GPR Equipment is expensive.

To address safety and interference concerns GPR technology is quite benign. Radar.Safety and Interference Concerns During investigations. or radio frequency. GPR surveys are often performed near sensitive electronic equipment or tenant occupied spaces. especially civil surveys. The energy source is. as the name implies. The antennas used in civil surveys are fully shielded to direct all the transmitted energy into the ground and to eliminate surface reflection artifacts and radio frequency interference common to an unshielded system . It is relatively low power so there are no deleterious effects from destructive radiation and no need to do locates after hours.

500. as well as steel. The reflected signal from 3 mm steel reinforcement mesh can be more pronounced than 30 mm PVC conduit. and because concrete varies a great deal. . a direct calibration must be done to get accurate depth measurements. Distinguishing between different materials can only be done in a relative sense.The radar signal reflects off of any objects with a difference in conductivity so materials such as plastics or air voids. Commercial daily rate: ~$3. stress cables and conduit in concrete to a depth of 450 mm depending on how many other there are in between. can be resolved. GPR can accurately resolve objects such as re-bar.