Hao Bai PhD DISSERTATION_Dec2020 - Deposit.pdf (7.48 MB)

Non-Destructive Evaluation of the Condition of Subsurface Drainage in Pavement Using Ground Penetrating RADAR (GPR)

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posted on 14.12.2020, 22:42 by Hao Bai
Pavement drainage systems are one of the key drivers of pavement function and longevity, and effective drain maintenance can significantly extend a pavement's service life. Maintenance of these drains, however, is often hampered by the challenge of locating the drains. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) typically offers a rapid and effective method to detect these underground targets. However, typical detection schema that rely upon the observation of the hyperbolic return from a GPR scan of a buried conduit still tend to miss many of the older drains beneath pavements as they may be partially or fully filled with sediment and/or may be fabricated from clay or other earthen materials, yielding a return signal that is convolved with significant background noise.

To manage this challenge, this work puts forward an improved background noise and clutter reduction method to enhance the target signals in what amounts to a constructed environment that tends to have more consistent subsurface properties than one might encounter in a general setting. Within this technique, two major algorithms are employed. Algorithm 1 is the core of this method, and plays the role of reducing background noise and clutter. Algorithm 2 is supplementary, and helps eliminate anomalous discontinuous returns generated by the equipment itself, which could otherwise lead to false detection indications in the output of Algorithm 1. Instead of traditional 2-D GPR images, the result of the proposed algorithms is a 1-D plot along the survey line, highlighting a set of “points of interest” that could indicate buried drain locations identified at any given GPR operating frequency. Subsurface exploration using two different operating frequencies, 900 MHz and 400 MHz herein, is then employed to further enhance detection confidence. Points of interest are ultimately coded to define the confidence of the detection. Comparing the final result of proposed algorithms with the original GPR images, the improved algorithm is demonstrated to provide significantly improved detection results, and could potentially be applied to similar problems in other contexts.

Besides the background reduction methods, a group of simulations performed using GPRMAX2D software are examined to explore the influence of road cross-section designs on sub-pavement drainage conduit GPR signatures, and evaluate the effectiveness of alternate GPR antennae configurations in locating these buried conduits in different ground conditions. Two different models were explored to simulate conduit detection. In addition, different pipe and soil conditions were modeled, such as pipe size, pipe material, soil moisture level, and soil type. Four different quantitative measurements are used to analyze GPR performance based on different key factors. The four measurements are 1) signal to background ratio (SBR) in dB; 2) signal to receiver noise ratio (SNR) in dB; 3) signal energy in Volts; and 4) average signal band power in Watts.

The water and clay content of subsurface soil can significantly influence the detection results obtained from ground penetrating radar (GPR). Due to the variation of the material properties underground, the center frequency of transmitted GPR signals shifts to a lower range as wave attenuation increases. Examination of wave propagation in the subsurface employing an attenuation filter based on a linear system model shows that received GPR signals will be shifted to lower frequencies than those originally transmitted. The amount of the shift is controlled by a wave attenuation factor, which is determined by the dielectric constant, electric conductivity, and magnetic susceptibility of the transmitted medium. This work introduces a receiver-transmitter-receiver dual-frequency configuration for GPR that employs two operational frequencies for a given test - one higher and one slightly lower - to take advantage of this phenomenon to improve subpavement drain detection results. In this configuration, the original signal is transmitted from the higher frequency transmitter. After traveling through underground materials, the signal is received by two receivers with different frequencies. One of the receivers has the same higher center frequency as the transmitter, and the other receiver has a lower center frequency. This configuration can be expressed as Rx(low-frequency)-Tx(high-frequency)-Rx(high-frequency) and was applied in both laboratory experiments and field tests. Results are analyzed in the frequency domain to evaluate and compare the properties of the signal obtained by both receivers. The laboratory experiment used the configuration of Rx(400MHz)-Tx(900MHz)-Rx(900MHz). The field tests, in addition to the configuration used in the lab tests, employed another configuration of Rx(270MHz)-Tx(400MHz)-Rx(400MHz) to obtain more information about this phenomenon. Both lab and field test results illustrate the frequency-shift phenomenon described by theoretical calculations. Based on the power spectrum for each signal, the lower frequency antenna typically received more energy (higher density values) at its peak frequency than the higher frequency antenna.


Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP) SPR-3419 by Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair


Additional Committee Member 2


Additional Committee Member 3


Additional Committee Member 4