Sounding Out Buried Waste

by Alan Witten, Sr. Scientist; Applied Technology Group, Oak Ridge National Lab., Energy Div., Tennessee,
Wendell C. King, (M.ASCE), Chief; Army Environmental Hygiene Activity-West, Envir. Health Engrg. Div., Aurora, CO 80045,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 5, Pg. 62-64

Document Type: Feature article


Geophysical diffraction tomography (GDT) is a new remote sensing technique for quantitative high-resolution subsurface imaging. It is similar to optical holography where long wavelength acoustic or electromagnetic waves are used to interrogate a subsurface study region. By monitoring the waves, it is possible to create a computer-generated map of spatial variations in wave speed which can be related to more material properties. GDT was originally conceived as a tool for deep resource exploration, however, it has recently been implemented for shallow applications, particularly the location and identification of buried waste. GDT allows for a relatively rapid survey with the capability for real-time signal processing and display in the field. Field tests have demonstrated that GDT is capable of accurately imaging buried pipes, drums, landfill trenches, tunnels and regions of elevated soil moisture. GDT has also imaged dinosaur bones and could image tunnels and passageways in pyramids.

Subject Headings: Imaging techniques | Long waves | Material properties | Waste management | Field tests | Buried pipes | Radiography | Remote sensing

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