Marine Geophysical Research

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 397–411 | Cite as

Sediment identification using free fall penetrometer acceleration-time histories

  • Gopal K. MulukutlaEmail author
  • Lloyd C. Huff
  • Jeffrey S. Melton
  • Kenneth C. Baldwin
  • Larry A. Mayer
Original Research Paper


Knowledge of physical properties of near-surface sediments is an important requirement for many studies of the seafloor. Dynamic or Free Fall Penetrometers (FFP), instrumented with accelerometers, are widely used to assess the mechanical properties of the sediment by deriving penetration resistance from the deceleration response of the probe as it impacts and embeds the seabed. Other field investigations, a priori knowledge or a very basic description of the type of sediment (such as a description of the sediment as soft, medium or hard) derived from studying the deceleration response (accelerometer-time histories) are used for sediment identification prior to the application of an appropriate strength determination model. In many cases this information is site-specific and in others the penetration resistance is overestimated due to the dilatory effects observed in sediment with an undetected grain fraction. In this study variables affecting a dynamic penetrometer-sediment interaction system are identified. Using data from field investigations and literature we found a relationship among five variables: peak acceleration, embedment depth, total embedment time, velocity of impact and grain size. This is used to formulate a sediment identification model. The model accounts for variables that may vary widely within one deployment and it can be applied to other FFPs with different physical characteristics (such as a different mass or size). This may lead to the increased use of FFP as a deployment tool for rapid in situ characterization of the seafloor.


Free fall penetrometer Acceleration-time histories Surficial sediment Peak acceleration Embedment depth 



This work was performed at the Jere A. Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory, University of New Hampshire. Support was provided by a grant from Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Special thanks to Dr. Robert McConnaughey at AFSC for coordinating the field investigation. Glenn McGillicuddy assisted Dr. Lloyd Huff with the deployment of the FFCPT. We gratefully acknowledge the comments received from three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gopal K. Mulukutla
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lloyd C. Huff
    • 2
  • Jeffrey S. Melton
    • 4
  • Kenneth C. Baldwin
    • 3
  • Larry A. Mayer
    • 2
  1. 1.Complex Systems Research CenterUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Center for Coastal and Ocean MappingUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Center for Ocean EngineeringUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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