The evaluation of the water content of unsaturated soil is important for many applications, such as environmental engineering, agriculture and soil science. This study is applied to pavement engineering, but the proposed approach can be utilized in other applications as well. There are various techniques currently available which measure the soil moisture content and some of these techniques are non-intrusive. Herein, a new methodology is proposed that avoids several disadvantages of existing techniques. In this study, ground-coupled Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) techniques are used to non-destructively monitor the volumetric water content. The signal is processed in the frequency domain; this method is based on Rayleigh scattering according to the Fresnel theory. The scattering produces a non-linear frequency modulation of the electromagnetic signal, where the modulation is a function of the water content. To test the proposed method, five different types of soil were wetted in laboratory under controlled conditions and the samples were analyzed using GPR. The GPR data were processed in the frequency domain, demonstrating a correlation between the shift of the frequency spectrum of the radar signal and the moisture content. The techniques also demonstrate the potential for detecting clay content in soils. This frequency domain approach gives an innovative method that can be applied for an accurate and non-invasive estimation of the water content of soils – particularly, in sub-asphalt aggregate layers – and assessing the bearing capacity and efficacy of the pavement drainage layers. The main benefit of this method is that no preventive calibration is needed.
Benedetto, A. (2010). Water content evaluation in unsaturated soil using GPR signal analysis in the frequency domain. JOURNAL OF APPLIED GEOPHYSICS, 71, 26-35 [10.1016/j.jappgeo.2010.03.001].