Ultrasonic Methods


  • Determine depths of surface cracks
  • Calculate concrete stiffness and strength
  • Determine depth of fire damaged concrete
  • Detect defects within concrete -voiding and honeycombing

Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity (UPV) measurements record the time taken for an ultrasonic pulse of compression waves to travel through a known thickness of concrete. A piezoelectric transducer is held in contact with the concrete under test and a similar transducer, a set distance away, detects the arrival of the transmitted pulse. An electronic timing circuit measures the transit time of the pulse to allow the pulse velocity to be calculated. This velocity is directly proportional to the density and stiffness of the concrete and thus a concrete strength measurement can be estimated. This method is best used in conjunction with the Rebound Hammer to provide a second source of information. The most accurate results are obtained from direct measurements through a structural element such as a beam or column. Care must be taken to avoid testing near reinforcement bars particularly those running parallel to the pulse path. The moisture condition of the concrete can also affect the result. This method can also be used to detect defects within the concrete because the ultrasonic waves are poorly transmitted by air-filled cracks and voids. These obstructions result in an increase in effective path length, resulting in a lower pulse velocity.

UPV Transmitter and receiver are used in semi-direct mode.
Data analysis and presentation

The pulse velocity is compared to established criterion for concrete quality. Generally the higher the velocities, the sounder the concrete and the stronger it is.


  • Identify voids, channels, rebar, inclusions, segregation, honeycombing and cracking within concrete.

Ultrasonic tomography including Multi Impulse Ray Analysis (MIRA) is an acoustic technique that provides reflection imaging of the subsurface (see figures). The method consists of a synthetic aperture array of ultrasonic transducers (transmitters and receivers) that measure travel times for reflected shear wave pulses, propagated into a concrete medium. The method uses a new kind of ultrasonic transducer that does not require a coupling gel. Forty-eight dry tip transducers (MIRA system) are placed in an array that allows a 350 mm by 50 mm swathe of information to be collected every 5 seconds.

Ultrasonic flow detector 24 element antenna array

MIRA Ultrasonic Tomograph

The transducers induce high-frequency shear wave pulses (adjustable between 25 and 85 kHz) into the concrete from the surface. Each array element measures the travel times of any reflected shear waves between the different array elements. This allows both the shear wave velocity and target depth to be determined. Using this information it can then image internal defects such as voids / honeycombing that will disrupt and reflect the induced shear waves. Shear wave energy will not pass through gases or liquids within voids or cracks and therefore is mostly reflected from such anomalies.
The unit is moved progressively along the element being tested at 20 mm – 100 mm intervals depending on the resolution required. The software records the information and is able to produce a 3-dimensional image that can be up to 2000 mm deep, 350 mm wide and as much as 10 m long in one file. The software is then able to plot the relative amplitude of the reflected wave at the source of the reflection according to the selected colour scale.


  • There is a near field dead-zone of approximately 30 to 100 mm from the surface depending on the frequency used.
  • The smallest void that can be detected is between 20 & 70 mm depending on the frequency used. Detectable size diminishes with depth.
  • Depth of penetration is limited to 500 to 2000 mm depending on the frequency used.
  • Large diameter bars or densely packed steel can obscure detail.
  • Scan Rate is relatively slow (4 sq metre/hour).
  • Long setup time (approximately one hour).
Data analysis and presentation
Ultrasonic Tomography Section
(Stepped concrete slab 210 mm, 330 mm, 450 mm & 570 mm thick containing 50 mm diameter hollow ducts. Note the shadow below each duct)

Two images above from the MIRA ultrasonic system collected from the heavily reinforced caissons in the figure below. The pale blue areas are voids / honeycombing around and behind steel reinforcing

Photographs of caissons and internal reinforcement.

A composite slice (75mm thick) indicating possible void at the joint at chainage -5800mm.


  • Integrity testing of rock bolts and anchors
  • Measure length of anchor bolts
  • Detect deficiencies in load capacity due to loss of section from corrosion or defects in the grout

A stress wave is induced down the bolt using 3 to 5 lateral blows of a small hammer near the end of the bolt. A receiving velocity transducer held against the end of the bolt detects the axial waveform from the stress wave echos and is recorded via an analogue to digital converter.

Mod-Shock underground rock bolt being tested
Data analysis and presentation

The signal is analysed in the frequency domain using fast fourier transform. Models for various criteria such as mechanical admittance, frequency spectra and velocity are all used to determine the integrity of the bolt under analysis.


  • Measure thickness of metal e.g. flange, pipe, boiler tube, steel light pole

Ultrasonic Thickness Gauge uses the pulse echo principle similar to ground penetrating radar (GPR). A short ultrasonic pulse is transmitted into the material by a probe (transducer). The pulse travels through the material under test until it encounters an interface, such as air or liquid at the back surface of the part, where the pulse reflects back to the probe. This reflection is called the back wall echo. A calibration block is used to calibrate the probe for each material tested. Test surface must be smooth and unpitted.

Data analysis and presentation

The time needed for the pulse to make the round trip is divided by two and multiplied by the velocity of sound in the material under test. The result is the thickness of the material.

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