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Assessing the condition of roads and buried infrastructure using geophysical technologies

Project Description

With a growing urban population around the world, we are more than ever reliant on a healthy and functional infrastructure system. To address this need, effective assessment methods are needed to evaluate the infrastructure condition, which include the road structure the supporting ground beneath and the buried utilities. Conventional methods for assessing these infrastructure systems such as visual inspection have some major drawbacks, including; limitations for assessing any degradation below the surface and the potential for human error. Geophysical methods such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) have been widely used to bridge this gap, but have not been successful in replacing the visual inspection methods. This is partly due to the fact that most of these methods do not provide an engineering ‘condition parameter’ and their output is subjective and dependant on the user judgment and expertise. The answer to this could be to adopt a more automated system for detecting defects using the appropriate geophysical techniques and therefore minimising the element of human subjectivity. Any approach would need to take into account all the influencing factors, including weather conditions.
This PhD project will develop a framework to identify and select the most appropriate geophysical methods for assessing the condition of roads and its surrounding ground (and shallow buried infrastructure, such as pipes). The study will involve a combination of computer modelling and physical experiments using a range of different technologies, in close collaboration with the Self-Repairing Cities Project (

This project would be suitable for a candidate with an interest in working across disciplines (e.g. geotechnical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, robotics, computer science), who is highly motivated and adaptable, with good communication skills. 

Interested applicants should contact the project supervisor, Professor David Chapman (), for an informal discussion.

Funding Notes

There is no direct funding for this PhD, but as a School we run funding competitions once a year and we can apply for this funding. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Civil and Construction Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 18.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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