Volume 35, Issue 5 (September 2012)
Fabrication, Operation, and Health Monitoring of Bender Elements for Aggressive Environments
Bender elements are commonly used to monitor the shear wave velocity of soils in various tests, including triaxial, consolidation, and centrifuge tests. When used in aggressive soil environments, electromagnetic crosstalk can distort the received bender element signal, preventing accurate shear wave velocity measurements. Aggressive soil environments are defined herein as conductive soils with high relative permittivity. Under these conditions, the electrical source is transmitted from source to receiver bender, dominating any received shear wave signal propagating through the soil. Careful attention must be paid to reducing the transmission of the electromagnetic signal, particularly in aggressive soil environments. When the waterproof coating of a bender element degrades and the inner and outer electrodes become electrically connected in a saturated environment, the bender element will no longer operate. However, when the waterproofing material is degraded so that only a single electrode on the source element is exposed, electric current can enter the pore fluid and affect the received signal. Further, even if the waterproofing coating is intact, electromagnetic crosstalk from the induced electrical field generated by the transmitting bender element can still affect the received signal when the conductivity of the pore fluid is high. Bender elements can be constructed so as to greatly reduce the electromagnetic crosstalk, and simple tests can be performed to help ensure that the bender element system is not susceptible to crosstalk. The objective here is to present details and practical guidelines regarding the fabrication, operation, and health monitoring of bender elements that will help ensure clear shear wave velocity measurements in aggressive soil environments. The fabrication steps presented improve on previous recommendations. Bender element operation (including signal form, frequency, and amplitude) also affects signal quality and the accuracy of the measured travel time. Finally, recommendations for monitoring the health of the bender elements throughout the transducer life are outlined.