# Electrical Resistivity Test of Soil

This method depends on differences in the electrical resistance of different soil (and rock) types. The flow of current through a soil is mainly due to electrolytic action and therefore depends on the concentration of dissolved salts in the pores. The mineral particles of soil are poor conductors of current. The resistivity of soil, therefore, decreases as both water content and concentration of salts increase.

Dense clean sand above the water table, for example, would exhibit a high resistivity due to its low degree of saturation and virtual absence of dissolved salts. Saturated clay of high void ratio, on the other hand, would exhibit a low resistivity due to the relative abundance of pore water and the free ions in that water.

There are several methods by which the field resistivity measurements are made. The most popular of the methods is the Wenner Method.

## Wenner Method

The Wenner arrangement consists of four equally spaced (A) electrodes driven approximately 20 cm into the ground as shown in the following figure.

In this method a dc current of known magnitude (I) is passed between the two outer (current) electrodes, thereby producing an electric field within the soil, whose pattern can be determined by the resistivities of the soils present within the field and the boundary conditions. By means of the inner electrodes the potential drop ‘E’ for the surface current flow lines is measured. The apparent resistivity ‘R’, is calculated using the following equation Where,

A in centimeters,

E in volts,

I in amperes, and

R in ohm-cm

The apparent resistivity represents a weighted average of true resistivity to a depth A in a large volume of soil, the soil close to the surface being more heavily weighted than the soil at greater depths. The presence of a stratum of low resistivity forces the current to flow closer to the surface resulting in a higher voltage drop and hence a higher value of apparent resistivity. The opposite is true if a stratum of low resistivity lies below a stratum of high resistivity.

The method known as electrical sounding is used when the variation of resistivity with depth is required. This enables rough estimates to be made of the types and depths of strata. A series of readings are taken, the (equal) spacing of the electrodes being increased for each successive reading. However, the center of the four electrodes remains at a fixed point. As the spacing is increased, the apparent resistivity is influenced by a greater depth of soil. If the resistivity increases with the increasing electrode spacing, it can be concluded that an underlying stratum of higher resistivity is beginning to influence the readings. If increased separation produces decreasing resistivity, on the other hand, a lower resistivity is beginning to influence the readings.

Apparent resistivity is plotted against spacing, preferably, on log paper. Characteristic curves for a two layer structure are shown in the following figure.