EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Benchmark of multiple non-invasive electrodes for a relevant use in urban environments

Tom Debouny, David Caterina, and Frédéric Nguyen
Tom Debouny et al.
  • University of Liège, Urban and Environmental Engineering, Belgium (

Over time, urbanized areas have undergone continuous development and growth as they adapt to the changing needs of their residents. This has often involved the construction of new buildings, roads, and infrastructures, as well as the renovation and expansion of existing structures. Subsurface characterization is thus a crucial aspect of urban development, as it is essential for the planning, construction and monitoring of new or existing infrastructures. Urbanized environments may be challenging for conventional subsurface characterization methods such as drilling or excavation due to difficulty of access or the presence of buried networks that are not always properly mapped. Geophysical methods can be seen as an interesting alternative to these traditional characterization approaches but require to be adapted to work properly in such environment. This led to the development of the urban geophysics discipline.

Among the different geophysical methods available, Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) appears as a useful and robust tool for studying subsurface materials and structures in urban environments. It has already been used to investigate underground utilities such as tunnels, cellars, pipes, tank storages and building foundations as well as natural structures. While ERT minimizes site disturbance, the use of fully non-invasive electrodes is sometimes required for the preservation of investigated sites. The best example remains the investigation of archeological structures. For that purpose, a diversity of non-invasive electrodes such as flat electrodes, bentonite mud or conductive gel has already been used overtime for different purposes but showed different outcomes in terms of contact resistance, measurement uncertainty, durability or signal to noise ratio. To our knowledge, few systematic comparison has been done between the different types of non-invasive electrodes and their impact in terms of imaging/monitoring in specific conditions for urban applications.

The present study proposes an assessment of the use of different non-conventional electrodes on various surfaces often encountered in urban environments at controlled lab-scale. The tested electrodes can be divided into two main categories, the electrolytic and the weight electrodes. The analysis focuses on contact resistance, electrical current transmission, noise measurements, strength and stability of the signal over time. The ease and time of deployment are also taken into account for future uses in larger scale fieldworks. Based on preliminary results, the electrodes based on electrolytic contact demonstrate better performances in highly resistive environments, where a better grounding resistance can globally be achieved compared to weight-based electrodes. However, their implementation are more fastidious slowing the acquisition.

How to cite: Debouny, T., Caterina, D., and Nguyen, F.: Benchmark of multiple non-invasive electrodes for a relevant use in urban environments, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-12013,, 2023.