Experimental determination of bulk dielectric properties and porosity of porous asphalt and soils using GPR and a cyclic moisture variation technique

Wai Lok Lai, W. F. Tsang, Hui Fang, Du Xiao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes a new method for determining porosities in two porous construction and geologic materials (asphalt and soil) by using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) over a wide range of controlled degrees of water saturation (Sw). We call this method a cyclic moisture variation technique (CMVT). Freshwater is used as an enhancer or a tracer to allow GPR to easily detect and differentiate amounts of water or other moisture in these materials. The CMVT is based on measuring the changes of real permittivity (ε′) and Sw in the test materials as they transition from partially saturated states to a fully saturated state via cycles of water permeation and dewatering. This method does not disturb the test materials, as do the methods associated with traditional laboratory testing on cored samples. It also tests a large mass of in situ material, compared with the small mass tested by the conventional or electromagnetic coaxial transmission line (EMCTL) method (also known as a dielectric cell) and the time-domain reflectometry (TDR) method. Porosity values of asphalt (Φ = 2%-7%) and of soils (Φ = 44%-48%) were determined by fitting the data into the complex refractive index model (CRIM). Dielectric hysteresis of both soils and asphalt also is observable during the tests and shows that the pathways of water-ingress and water-egress processes are not identical in the plot of ε′ versus degrees of water saturation (Sw).
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


  • Geophysical techniques
  • Ground penetrating radar
  • Minerals
  • Moisture
  • Permittivity
  • Porosity
  • Soil
  • Time-domain Reflectometry
  • Tracers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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