Spotlight on ISSACS Fellow Phong Nguyen

Phong Nguyen headshot wearing black turtleneck

Phong Nguyen, a B.S./ M.S. student in the Department of Electrical Engineering, was selected for an ISSACS Fellowship based on his research dealing with the design, implementation, and testing of a state-of-the-art ground penetrating radar (GPR) system to be used in urban infrastructure surveying. Partnering with the City of Lakewood, Ohio and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Phong’s goal is to develop a “multistatic” GPR for vehicle-mounted roadway and utility monitoring applications. The fellowship supported the completion of the system build and testing during his M.S. thesis.

As the fellowship period draws to a close, Phong provided the following summary of his research to date.

His work employs three methods to improve GPR performance compared to currently available technology: pseudo-random codes (m-sequences) for radar pulses (allowing improved resolution due to matched-filtering), a high-speed FPGA-based pulse generation and radiofrequency sampling, and an analog front-end using an 8x8 multistatic antenna array design. This all leads to improved range resolution and depth of scan, object localization and reduced drift between scans.

Experimental setup used for outdoor experiments: rack set up with laptop/power supply on top, GPR in the middle, and arrow pointing to buried object location

Experimental results from indoor and outdoor test-beds confirm the functionality of the proposed GPR system: in the indoor environment, the system has demonstrated the capability of: i) tracking the movement of a pipe rolling on the floor, and ii) differentiating the shapes of a cylinder trash bin and a flat metal plate. The outdoor testbed, on the Case Quad in front of Glennan and White, consisted of various voids and objects buried at different depths in the soil. In this experiment, the system proved capable of detecting objects buried at a depth of up to 30 cm.

Photograph of the GPR system mounted on the utility truck.The frame was positioned to avoid interference with normal operation of the vehicle.

In the last experiment, the system was mounted on a utility truck that drove around the city of Lakewood, Ohio, with the system simultaneously collecting continuous GPR, inertial measurement unit (IMU), and global positioning system (GPS) data. Measurement results showed high correlation between the IMU vibration data and perturbation in the GPR's measurement of the road surface.

Phong is presenting his work at MERCon 2020 (July 28 - July 30, 2020).