An overview of the spectral induced polarization method for near-surface applications

Andreas Kemna, Andrew Binley, Giorgio Cassiani, Ernst Niederleithinger, André Revil, Lee Slater, Kenneth H. Williams, Adrián Flores Orozco, Franz Hubert Haegel, Andreas Hördt, Sabine Kruschwitz, Virginie Leroux, Konstantin Titov, Egon Zimmermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


Over the last 15 years significant advancements in induced polarization (IP) research have taken place, particularly with respect to spectral IP (SIP), concerning the understanding of the mechanisms of the IP phenomenon, the conduction of accurate and broadband laboratory measurements, the modelling and inversion of IP data for imaging purposes and the increasing application of the method in near-surface investigations. We summarize here the current state of the science of the SIP method for near-surface applications and describe which aspects still represent open issues and should be the focus of future research efforts. Significant progress has been made over the last decade in the understanding of the microscopic mechanisms of IP; however, integrated mechanistic models involving different possible polarization processes at the grain/pore scale are still lacking. A prerequisite for the advances in the mechanistic understanding of IP was the development of improved laboratory instrumentation, which has led to a continuously growing data base of SIP measurements on various soil and rock samples. We summarize the experience of numerous experimental studies by formulating key recommendations for reliable SIP laboratory measurements. To make use of the established theoretical and empirical relationships between SIP characteristics and target petrophysical properties at the field scale, sophisticated forward modelling and inversion algorithms are needed. Considerable progress has also been made in this field, in particular with the development of complex resistivity algorithms allowing the modelling and inversion of IP data in the frequency domain. The ultimate goal for the future are algorithms and codes for the integral inversion of 3D, time-lapse and multi-frequency IP data, which defines a 5D inversion problem involving the dimensions space (for imaging), time (for monitoring) and frequency (for spectroscopy). We also offer guidelines for reliable and accurate measurements of IP spectra, which are essential for improved understanding of IP mechanisms and their links to physical, chemical and biological properties of interest. We believe that the SIP method offers potential for subsurface structure and process characterization, in particular in hydrogeophysical and biogeophysical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-468
Number of pages16
JournalNear Surface Geophysics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics


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