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Laboratory Development of a Borehole Ultrasound Nondestructive Testing Method to Evaluate Bridge Foundations

An ultrasonic P-wave borehole system was developed as a nondestructive testing (NDT) technique to evaluate the length of embedded bridge foundation elements. The system is designed to be lowered within a PVC-cased borehole. Ultrasonic P-waves are transmitted into the soil and the corresponding reflection signals are plotted to generate an image of the foundation. This paper summarizes the suite of laboratory tests that were performed as part of the development of this system. A large soil model was constructed in the laboratory and multiple objects composed of steel, timber, concrete, and various plastics were embedded throughout different cross sections of the model. The effects of borehole construction were mimicked by varying the thickness of the PVC and the presence of a grout layer. The results show that under ideal conditions the system is capable of recording reflection signals from objects embedded in 0.9 m of soil. Moreover, the system can detect object edges to within approximately 5% of their true locations.

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