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2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

Steady State Performance of Improvised Ufer

Grounding Practice
Siow Chun Lim Chandima Gomes
School of Engineering Center for Electromagnetic and Lighting Protection (CELP)
Taylor's University Universiti Putra Malaysia
Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
ChunLim.Siow@taylors.edu.my chandima@upm.edu.my

Norhafiz Azis
Mohd Zainal Abidin Abd Kadir
Center for Electromagnetic and Lighting Protection (CELP)
Center for Electromagnetic and Lighting Protection (CELP) Universiti Putra Malaysia
Universiti Putra Malaysia Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia norhafiz@upm.edu.my

Abstract- Ufer grounding is an effective method for electrical Therefore in previous work, Bentonite was introduced to
earthing, especially at highly resistive soil. The main material improve the grounding characteristics of concrete by
in ufer grounding is concrete which has moisture-dependent prolonging the moisture retention period within the concrete
resistivity. In previous work, mixing concrete with Bentonite
complex [4] . Bentonite itself is a low resistivity material and
was done to observe slight improvement during short term
coupled with its ability to absorb, retain and swell with the
measurements. In current study, the detailed results of
extended period of measurements have been presented. It was
presence of moisture, it was thought that its introduction
found that the improvement of the proposed mix over the would be beneficial to the effectiveness of the concrete mix
standard concrete mix has increased with time. In addition, as a major component of grounding system [5].
mechanical strength of the proposed mix was found to be only
Slight improvement was observed when Bentonite was
10% lower than the standard mix. Therefore this suggests that
the proposed mix may be applicable as the mixture for
introduced into concrete mix at a ratio of 30% base on the
building foundation as in the case of ufer grounding. initial measurements reported in [4]-[5]. However similar
research experimenting on other materials foretold that
Keywords-component; Ufer grounding, Bentonite, Concrete, conclusion on the effectiveness of such grounding
Ground Resistance, Resistivity improvement material can only be accurately drawn after
several years of measurement [6] -[7] .
In this paper, detailed analysis on the behavior of the
Grounding system is a compulsory component for all proposed Bentonite mixed concrete for up to two years was
electrical systems. It serves many possible functions which presented. In addition, preliminary results of the mechanical
include power system, transient, signal as well as strength of the proposed mix will also be discussed. The
electrostatic discharge [1]. There are several types of mechanical strength data is crucial in determining its
grounding configurations which cater for specific site suitability as material for building foundation.
conditions. For sites with high soil resistivity, it was
strongly recommended that the steel grounding electrodes be Earthing
embedded in concrete [2]. This method is called ufer rod

grounding. As shown in Fig. 1, Ufer grounding consists of

two major materials namely concrete and rebar [1] .
Concrete is slightly-conducting and heterogenous
material with all three phases (solid, liquid, gas) coexisting
[3]. The solid phase consists of the aggregates and
anhydrous cement. The gaseous phase consists of air voids Figure l. Ufer grounding [1]
trapped within the concrete mix and this proportion will also
remains relatively unchanged over the time. However, the
proportion of liquid phase which consists of moisture will
vary over the time as moisture can penetrate concrete with II. METHODOLOGY
ease. Furthermore, the conductivity and relative permittivity
of concrete largely depends on the moisture content.
A. Flow o{Work
Fig. 2 depicts the flow of steps involved in this work.

978-1-4799-3544-4/14/$31.00 2014 IEEE 572

2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

B. Site Selection
Before starting the experiment, the site in which the
research will take place was carefully selected. Several
factors were considered in the selection which includes:

'r Adequacy of space for construction of research

'r Soil stability
'r Soil resistivity
'r Proximity and accessibility
'r Long-term availability of the site

The site should have space large enough to

accommodate the construction of eight grounding pits each
measuring approximately 1 m (depth) x l.2 m (height) x

l.2 m (width) [4] . The pits must be separated by at least 2

m from each other to avoid cross effects. There should also
be no obstructions such as trees and large rocks on the bare
site. Otherwise, this will disrupt the process of construction
of pits and also violate uniformity.
Stability of soil in the site is another vital issue which Figure 2. Work outline
must be taken into account. The soil should be strong
enough to hold concrete (with various mix compositions)
encased metal cages without sinking significantly. Marshy There should not be any development works taking
area should thus be avoided. Otherwise, measurement of place in the possible site at least until the final day of
ground resistance which is taken across the protruding rod measurement. This is to ensure that the site's soil condition
(purposely welded to stay above ground level for remain as it is and only affected by natural weathering
measurement purpose) would be impossible once it has effect. Furthermore, the site has to be relocated in the event
submerged entirely underground. of new developmental works on the site. This is virtually
The soil should also be as homogeneous throughout the impossible as the grounding systems are buried and
entire site as possible with respect to soil resistivity. This is relocation of site will require transportation of all the buried
important so that comparison of the performance of each grounding electrodes and also the soil mass attached to
grounding pit can be made fairly since soil resistivity can them.
now be kept approximately constant. Apart from the
geometry of grounding system, soil resistivity is the only
other parameter which affects the ground resistance of the C. Installation of Grounding Systems
electrode systems to be measured. The installation details were presented in [4]-[5] . Briefly,
Another factor is the location and physical condition of the Fig. 3 iIIustrats the dimension of each of the eight
site when it is subjected to weather changes, which is most grounding pits. The concrete were mixed by replacing 10%-
likely the heavy rainfall in this case. The site should not be 70% of cement with Bentonite. The ground resistance of
too far away for the convenience to conduct measurement each pit was measured by clamping the 10cm protrusion of
periodically. Monitoring of the site could be readily made steel cage above soil. The steel protrusions were well
whenever it is necessary. Additionally, the area to be cleaned before taking each measurements
selected should not be waterlogged under prolonged
torrential downpour which is a common occurrence in
Malaysia. The site should be easily accessed during
construction of grounding pits under any weather condition.
The same situation is applicable for periodic measurement
soon after the pit construction.

2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China
-- -i Megger model DET4TCR2 computes and displays the
,--r----- -----------------
10 em
;; :::; : -
------ , :
apparent soil resistance Re which results from the ratio of
, potential measured between PI and P2 (V) to the measured
, 50 em current I. This value of Re was fed into equation above to


: : :
compute the apparent soil resistivity. The operating
,, frequency ofDET4TCR2 was fixed at 128 Hz which is not
mm_ _ - -

Concrete mix a at a harmonic of power frequencies [11] .

! 25 em 5 em -+ i+ Fig. 5 shows the mapping for soil resIstIvIty
! measurement purpose. The mapping was done according to
: --------------
l ______ !_!':'____________________________________
procedures employed and recommended in [8] , [11] -[12].
Figure 3. Dimension of each pit [4] Three sides of the site which forms a right-angled triangle
shape were identified as the measurement intervals. At each
side, several measurements were done at several probe
D. Mapping of Soil Resistivity spacings (r). Although the most accurate of soil resistivity
mapping is by considering measurement at mesh-shaped
The most recommended method in measuring the soil
sides of dimensions as small as possible, the right-angled
resistivity of large soil masses is 4-point method [8] . There
triangle mapping was deemed sufficient as only the rough
are two variations of such method namely Wenner
estimation of soil resistivity is necessary for this stage of
Arrangement and Schlumberger-Palmer Arrangement. In research. Mesh-shaped side measurement is required when
terms of worldwide practice, Wenner method is more
mapping soil resistivity for designing grounding system for
favored [9] . Wenner method is more efficient when
power substations.
comparison is drawn with regard to the ratio of received
voltage per unit of transmitted current. However in terms of
time and manpower, Schlumberger method is better as it
requires that only the outer probes be moved for 4-5 times
for each movement of the inner probes whereas in Wenner
arrangement, all probes have to be moved for each
measurement. Nonetheless, Wenner method was chosen for
this research work because it was the most preferred one in Figure 4. Wenner arrangement
the literature. Another reason of adopting Wenner method is
that the designs are buried at 1 m depth, and considering the
fact that only the resistivity of soil up to I m depth is
relevant, Wenner method is more justified as Schlumberger
method is more accurate for larger inter-probe spacing and
hence corresponding to resistivity of soil at greater depth.
The main principle behind the Wenner method is the
average soil resistivity (P) up to certain depth of soil which
is equal to the separation distance between the probes (r)
Si de 3
can be approximated to be equal to 2Re7fr if the depth of
ide I
G (50..5m)

probe is at least 20 times less than the inter-probe 50m) 8

separation. In other words,
p 27rRer

Note that the term p above is actually the 'quasi-static "

resistivity in the frequency range from DC to about 1 kHz
[10] .
As illustrated in Fig. 4, there are two inner potential (P I and 'Sid 2 (7m)

P2) and two outer current probes (C l and C2) which are
Figure 5. Soil resistivity mapping
spaced equally by r m in a straight line and driven vertically
into the soil up to a depth d m. The Digital Earth Tester

2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

E. Measurement of Ground Resistance

Fall of Potential method was employed in measuring the

ground resistance and further details are available at [4]-[5],

F. Preparation of Bentonite Mixed Concrete Blocks

Eight cylindrical PVC pipes with open ends measuring Figure 7. Concrete sample under test
10 cm in height and 10 cm in diameter were used as moulds
for the concrete mix. Note that, the mix was exactly the The test was conducted according to ASTM C 469 C39
same as those used in grounding pits. The Bentonite test method for uniaxial compressive strength test of
concrete mixes were poured into the cylindrical moulds and concrete [15] . Increasing vertical force was applied on the
left for hardening for 24 hours. While pouring the concrete specimen until the breakdown of the samples occurred
mixes into the moulds, the mix was constantly hammered which was indicated by a drop in the force applied. The
and stirred to maximize compaction. Otherwise, voids and system will automatically stop increasing the vertical force
pores would be formed within the mix. After that, they were once it detected that the specimen has undergone complete
de-moulded and left for natural curing in air for 28 days. physical breakdown. Fig. 8 shows the final state of a
Fig. 6 shows the Bentonite mixed concrete blocks with the completely destroyed concrete sample.
same composition as the mixtures in the grounding pits.

G. Mechanical Strength Test III. RESULTS

Table I demonstrates the outcome of soil resistivity
Mechanical strength of concrete is usually characterized mapping. The site has an average soiI resistivity of 121 Om.
by the amount of compressive stress it can sustain. Before All the computed resistivity values were rounded up figures
executing the compression test, the concrete samples were as what has been measured here is basically the apparent
weighted. Then, the concrete samples were placed at the resistivity. Hence it is meaningless to introduce the values
Instron 3382 100 kN Floor Model Universal Testing up to large number of significant figures as they are not the
Systems with maximum applying force capacity of 100 kN precise values. Measurements taken from side 2 are
as shown in Fig. 7. The software used by the system to significantly higher because of the rather thin layer of loam
analyze the results is Instron Series IX. possibly suggesting the existence of rocky layer underneath.

Fig. 12 illustrates the ground resistance of each mixture

for a period of two years. The highest and lowest measured
readings were 155.450 (pit 3 or 20% Bentonite) and 13.49
o (pit 4 or 30% Bentonite) respectively. Fig. 9 and Fig. 10
show the monthly rainfall data of the site. Table 2 depicts
the mass and physical dimensions of each Bentonite mixed
concrete blocks. Fig. 11 pictorialize the typical mechanical
Figure 6. Bentonite mixed concrete blocks strength profile of the Bentonite mixed concrete blocks.
Last but not least, Fig. 13 depicts the maximum
compressive stress of each block.

2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

as it is able to produce readings about 17% or 3 12 lower

than standard pit. The readings of this pit were also with
less fluctuation compared to standard pit with a difference
of about 30% or 0.7 12. For the analysis of structural or
mechanical behavior of concrete, there are three phases
which need to be considered namely a coherent mortar
phase, aggregate phase and the transition zone [16] . The
coherent mortar phase is represented by the cement-water
constituents. Furthermore, aggregate phase consist of the
coarse aggregates (gravels) and fine aggregates (sands).
Figure 8. Destroyed concrete sample Finally, the transition zone is the interfacial area between
the previous two phases i.e. the particles of coarse
aggregate and the hydrated cement paste. It is the most
critical component which influences the mechanical
The selected site has a relatively low but homogeneous
behavior of concrete [17] .
soil resistivity averaging at 125 12m. In the first year of
measurement which is year 2012, it can be deduced from
Fig. l3 illustrates the strength profile of 30% Bentonite
Fig. 12 that although there is relatively less rainfall from
concrete mix which is a typical stress-strain curve of a
January to February, the ground resistance measured for all
concrete. A linear-elastic behavior was observable from 0
pits were relatively stable. This suggests that the concrete as
MPa up to approximately 2.2 MPa or 30% of the maximum
well as Bentonite mixed concrete still can retain the initial
strength. Between 30-50% of the maximum strength, the
water content used to mix them for up to four months as it
stress increases faster than the strain as cracks are starting
is these retained moisture that compensated for the low
to be formed in the transition zone. For a stress between 50-
rainfall period. Although April is a relatively wet month, all
75% of the maximum stress, the amount of cracking in
pits with the exception of 20% Bentonite and 70%
transition zone increases. At approximately 75% maximum
Bentonite did not exhibit a lowered ground resistance value.
stress which is also known as the critical stress, complete
Instead, their values were kept steadily during that month.
fracture of the concrete occur as the cracks propagates and
In May which has a drastic reduction of up to 50% rainfall
extended to the mortar zone. The crack propagation is now
compared to previous month, the readings increase for all
unstable and concrete start to exhibits plasticity as the
pits indicating that the moisture within the concrete chunks
maximum stress is exceeded. Similar curves were obtained
in the pit are depleting. This increment extended until early
for other mixes.
July and in the middle of July there is an abrupt dip of
resistance values. This dip is attributed to a heavy rainfall
Bentonite or hydrated Bentonite would exist in the mortar
for few days during that period. During August which is
phase as well as in the transition zone. As hydrated
another dry month, measured values are on an increasing
Bentonite is not as good a binding agent as hydrated cement,
manner for all pits with the least amount of increment being
it would be expected that the strength of the mortar phase
shown by pit with 30% Bentonite. In fact from end of July
be reduced to an extent depending on the ratio of Bentonite
onward, 30% Bentonite has been consistently reflecting
cement being mixed. The strength of the transition zone
lower resistance than standard concrete pit. From
might also be compromised whereas the strength of the
September to December 2012, the amount of rainfalls was
aggregate phase should remain the same for all mixes.
high and this was translated to ground resistance values
which are even lower than the initial four months readings
The impact of partial replacement of cement with
and with less fluctuations. This decrement is even more
Bentonite on the compressive strength of concrete as
pronounced for pits with at least 30% composition of
inferred from Fig. l3 was found to be significant. The
Bentonite as shown in Table 3.
benchmark strength is 8 MPa which is that of the standard
concrete. It can be observed that the strength of concrete
Compared with Table 4 and Table 5, pits with at least 30%
decreases as the proportion of Bentonite increases which
of Bentonite clearly have greater dependence on the
agrees with the initial hypothesis. However there is only a
moisture content present in the soil. They exhibited much
reduction of about 10% in strength when Bentonite was
lowered ground resistance during heavy rain period. Pit
introduced at ratio of 10%-30%. The least reduction in
with 30% is especially effective during the stipulated period
strength was obtained for 10% mix which stood at about

2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

2.5%. Drastic reduction of strength occurred when TABLE 1. SOIL RESISTIVITY PROFILE

Bentonite were mixed at composition of 40%-70%.

Measured Calculated

Therefore when considering both the electrical and Probe Soil Soil

mechanical aspects, it is clear that 30% Bentonite-concrete Measurement Spacing Resistance Resistivity

mix is the optimum mix which addresses the objective of Sides (m) (0) (Om)

this thesis most. Since the mechanical strength of the 30% 2 8.67 109
composition was comparable with that of standard concrete, 4 4.15 104
its application as ufer ground in which the building's
6 2.92 110
foundation is utilized is feasible.
8 2.33 117
Rainfall (mml
10 l.93 121
12 1.49 112
611.8 14 l.30 114
16 1.02 103
.B9.4 0.5 60.2 189
1 27.63 174
1.5 17. 77 168
2 8. 88 112
2 9.45 119
Figure 9. Monthly rainfall data for year 2012 4 4.09 103
6 2. 77 104
.Rainfall (mml 8 2.58 130
314.5 10 2.00 126

12 l.32 100
14 1. 11 98
16 0.99 100

January February March April May June July August 6
/ '\
I \
Figure 10. Monthly rainfall data for year 2013

/ \
/ \
. 23 I \
1 / '"
/ .......
-1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1
CompreSSIve Stram (%)

Figure 11. Mechanical strength profile of 30% Bentonite mi

xed concrete sample

2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

Figure 12. Ground resistance variation for two years


Sample Mass(kg) Height Radius (m) Area (m2)

\(0%) 1.95 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714
2(10%) l.99 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714
3(20%) 1.90 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714
4(30%) 1.95 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714
5(40%) l.96 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714
6(50%) 1.90 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714
7(60%) l.92 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714
Figure 13. Maximum compressive stress of each block
8(70%) 1. 79 0. 1 0.05 0.00785714

2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China


TABLE 3. GROUND RESISTANCE MEASUREMENTS FROM It can be concluded that 30% Bentonite-concrete
composition is the optimwn mixing composition due to its
Average Ground Standard Deviation
lowest ground resistance and fluctuation. Improvement in
Pit Resistance (0) (0) tenns of electrical grounding characteristic was achieved by
1 18.29 2.29 mixing Bentonite with concrete at a ratio of 30%. Base on the
2 2l.34 2.38 mechanical strength test on air cured bentonite-concrete mixes,
3 36.44 2.75 introduction of 30% Bentonite to concrete building foundation
4 15.11 1.54 should have minimal reduction effect to its mechanical
strength since the mechanical strength of the best mix was
5 18.07 2.64
comparable with that of standard concrete. However more
6 17.35 2.69
extensive study should be done on the mechanical strength
7 18.95 4. l9 characterization by considering more aspects such as effect of
8 18.41 3.01 moist curing, admixtures as well as type of water used in



Average Ground Standard Deviation The authors would like to thank UPM for the support.
Pit Resistance (0) (0)
1 34.43 7.33
2 39.09 8. 13
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2014 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

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