Abstract

Seismic and electromagnetic imaging modalities are conventionally used in subsurface situational awareness applications. These modalities have been very effective at characterizing the geological media in terms of its constitutive mechanical properties such as density and compressibility, as well as electromagnetic properties such as electric conductivity, permeability, and permittivity. In order to enhance these imaging capabilities, a Thermoacoustic (TA) imaging system is used in this work. TA imaging relies on the coupling of mechanical and electromagnetic waves through a thermodynamic process, and it has the potential to reconstruct thermodynamic constitutive properties such as volumetric expansion coefficient and heat capacity. TA imaging has been mostly used in biological applications; this is due to the low signal-to-noise ratio that can be created with this physical mechanism. This work is aimed at addressing such limitation and exploring the use of TA imaging in geophysical applications. Conventionally, a short microwave pulse excitation is used to create the TA wave; so that the stress confinement condition is met while providing high resolution images. This approach requires the use of expensive high power amplifiers to create a detectable TA signal. This limitation can be addressed by using a frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) excitation, which has been recently proposed as a suitable mechanism to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio of the TA signal generated for a given peak power constrain. This paper discusses and compares both pulsed and FMCW TA imaging in geological media. Preliminary experimental results show the efficacy of this approach to image a rock immersed in an oil bath; thus paving the way towards its future use for subsurface sensing and imaging of fluid flow and transport in porous media.

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