Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geophysics (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Charles T. Young


Traditionally, densities of newly built roadways are checked by direct sampling (cores) or by nuclear density gauge measurements. For roadway engineers, density of asphalt pavement surfaces is essential to determine pavement quality. Unfortunately, field measurements of density by direct sampling or by nuclear measurement are slow processes. Therefore, I have explored the use of rapidly-deployed ground penetrating radar (GPR) as an alternative means of determining pavement quality. The dielectric constant of pavement surface may be a substructure parameter that correlates with pavement density, and can be used as a proxy when density of asphalt is not known from nuclear or destructive methods. The dielectric constant of the asphalt can be determined using ground penetrating radar (GPR). In order to use GPR for evaluation of road surface quality, the relationship between dielectric constants of asphalt and their densities must be established. Field measurements of GPR were taken at four highway sites in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties, Michigan, where density values were also obtained using nuclear methods in the field. Laboratory studies involved asphalt samples taken from the field sites and samples created in the laboratory. These were tested in various ways, including, density, thickness, and time domain reflectometry (TDR).

In the field, GPR data was acquired using a 1000 MHz air-launched unit and a ground-coupled unit at 200 and 500 MHz. The equipment used was owned and operated by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and available for this study for a total of four days during summer 2005 and spring 2006. The analysis of the reflected waveforms included “routine” processing for velocity using commercial software and direct evaluation of reflection coefficients to determine a dielectric constant. The dielectric constants computed from velocities do not agree well with those obtained from reflection coefficients. Perhaps due to the limited range of asphalt types studied, no correlation between density and dielectric constant was evident.

Laboratory measurements were taken with samples removed from the field and samples created for this study. Samples from the field were studied using TDR, in order to obtain dielectric constant directly, and these correlated well with the estimates made from reflection coefficients. Samples created in the laboratory were measured using 1000 MHz air-launched GPR, and 400 MHz ground-coupled GPR, each under both wet and dry conditions.

On the basis of these observations, I conclude that dielectric constant of asphalt can be reliably measured from waveform amplitude analysis of GJPR data, based on the consistent agreement with that obtained in the laboratory using TDR. Because of the uniformity of asphalts studied here, any correlation between dielectric constant and density is not yet apparent.