At present the ultrasonic pulse velocity method is the only one of this type that shows potential for testing concrete strength in situ. It measures the time of travel of an ultrasonic pulse passing through the concrete. The fundamental design features of all commercially available units are very similar, consisting of a pulse generator and a pulse receiver. Pulses are generated by shock-exciting piezo-electric crystals, with similar crystals used in the receiver3. The time taken for the pulse to pass through the concrete is measured by electronic measuring circuits.
Applications and Limitations
The pulse velocity method is an ideal tool for establishing whether concrete is uniform. It can be used on both existing structures and those under construction. Usually, if large differences in pulse velocity are found within a structure for no apparent reason, there is strong reason to presume that defective or deteriorated concrete is present.High pulse velocity readings are generally indicative of good quality concrete. A general relation between concrete quality and pulse velocity is given in Table below.
The Quality of concrete in terms of uniformity, incidence or absence of internal flaws, cracks or segregation etc. indicative of the level of workmanship employed, can thus be assessed using the guidelines given in table below ; which have been evolved for characterizing the Quality of concrete in structures in terms of the Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity.
Fairly good correlation can be obtained between cube compressive strength and pulse velocity. These relations enable the strength of structural concrete to be predicted within ±20 per cent, provided the types of aggregate and mix proportions are constant. The pulse velocity method has been used to study the effects on concrete of freeze-thaw action, sulphate attack, and acidic waters. Generally, the degree of damage is related to a reduction in pulse velocity. Cracks can also be detected. Great care should be exercised, however, in using pulse velocity measurements for these purposes since it is often difficult to interpret results. Sometimes the pulse does not travel through the damaged portion of the concrete. The pulse velocity method can also be used to estimate the rate of hardening and strength development of concrete in the early stages to determine when to remove formwork. Holes have to be cut in the formwork so that transducers can be in direct contact with the concrete surface. As concrete ages, the rate of increase of pulse velocity slows down much more rapidly than the rate of development of strength, so that beyond a strength of 2,000 to 3,000 psi (13.6 to 20.4 MPa) accuracy in determining strength is less than ±20%. Accuracy depends on careful calibration and use of the same concrete mix proportions and aggregate in the test samples used for calibration as in the structure.In summary, ultrasonic pulse velocity tests have a great potential for concrete control, particularly for establishing uniformity and detecting cracks or defects. Its use for predicting strength is much more limited, owing to the large number of variables affecting the relation between strength and pulse velocity.