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Acoustic measurement of suspensions of clay and silt particles using single frequency attenuation and backscatter

Wayne O. Carpenter Jr., Bradley T. Goodwiller, James P. Chambers, Daniel G. Wren, Roger A. Kuhnle
Applied acoustics 2014 v.85 no. pp. 123-129
Agricultural Research Service, acoustics, clay, kaolinite, silt, smectite, ultrasonics
The use of ultrasonic acoustic technology to measure the concentration of fine suspended sediments has the potential to greatly increase the temporal and spatial resolution of sediment measurements while reducing the need for personnel to be present at gauging stations during storm events. The conversion of high-frequency attenuation and backscatter amplitudes to suspended silt and clay concentration has received relatively little attention in the literature. In order to improve the state of knowledge, a laboratory investigation was undertaken by the National Center for Physical Acoustics in cooperation with the USDA-ARS National Sedimentation Laboratory. In these experiments, two immersion transducers were used to measure attenuation and backscatter from 20 MHz acoustic signals propagated through suspended clay (smectite and kaolinite) and silt particles. The resulting data includes attenuation values for a wide range of concentrations (0.3 – 14 g/L) and particle sizes (0.011 – 20 micron diameter). Attenuation curves for each particle were compared to the theoretical attenuation curves developed by Urick (1948) and Sheng and Hay (1988) for scattering as presented by Landers (2010). In addition, it was found that the backscatter signal could be used to discriminate between suspensions dominated by clay or silt.