What is MASW, why it is used, it’s working principle, procedure, applications?

What is MASW, why it is used, its working principle, procedure, and applications?

MASW, which stands for Multichannel Analysis of Surface Waves, is a geophysical method used to determine the subsurface’s shear wave velocity (Vs) profile. 

It is primarily used in geotechnical and engineering investigations to understand the mechanical properties of the Earth’s subsurface materials.

Working Principle

The MASW method relies on the measurement and analysis of surface waves generated by seismic sources. When a seismic source, such as a sledgehammer strike or a vibrator truck, creates vibrations in the ground, these vibrations propagate as waves through the subsurface. 

Surface waves, which travel along the ground surface, can be captured by an array of geophones or seismometers placed in a linear configuration along a profile on the surface.

The recorded surface waves contain valuable information about the subsurface properties, particularly the shear wave velocity. 

The shear wave velocity is related to the stiffness and strength of the soil or rock layers. By analyzing the dispersion characteristics of the recorded surface waves, which is the relationship between wave velocity and frequency, the shear wave velocity profile of the subsurface can be estimated.


Setup: An array of geophones or seismometers is deployed in a linear configuration along a profile on the ground surface.

Source: A seismic source is used to generate vibrations in the ground. This can be a sledgehammer strike, vibrator truck, or other suitable source.

Data Acquisition: The geophones record the surface waves generated by the source as they travel along the surface.

Data Analysis: The recorded surface wave data is processed to extract the dispersion characteristics.

Inversion: The dispersion data is inverted to estimate the shear wave velocity profile of the subsurface.


  • Subsurface profiling
  • Bedrock mapping
  • Soil liquefaction potential analysis
  • Shallow fault zone detection
  • Cavity detection
  • Pavement characterization 
  • Geotechnical Site Investigations
  • Seismic Site Response Analysis
  • Liquefaction Potential Assessment
  • Soil and Rock Classification
  • Environmental Studies

Significance of MASW

Shear Wave Velocity (Vs) Determination:

MASW allows for the estimation of the shear wave velocity profile of the subsurface. Shear wave velocity is a crucial parameter for evaluating the mechanical properties of soils and rocks, as it relates to their stiffness, strength, and dynamic behavior. Accurate determination of Vs is essential for designing foundations, assessing soil response to seismic loading, and analyzing liquefaction potential.

Non-Invasive and Cost-Effective:

MASW is a non-invasive method that doesn’t require drilling or excavation. It utilizes surface waves generated by seismic sources and recorded on the ground surface, making it a practical and cost-effective technique compared to other invasive methods like borehole testing. It minimizes disturbance to the site while providing valuable subsurface information.

Rapid Data Collection:

MASW allows for the collection of data along linear profiles relatively quickly. The array of geophones can be easily deployed and moved along the survey line, making it efficient for large-scale investigations. The rapid data collection enables a broad coverage of the site, providing a comprehensive understanding of the subsurface conditions.

Site-Specific Soil Characterization:

MASW provides detailed information about the soil and rock layers’ stiffness and dynamic properties, allowing for site-specific soil characterization. This information is critical for engineering design, such as selecting appropriate foundation types, evaluating soil-structure interaction, and designing structures to withstand seismic forces.

Geotechnical and Engineering Applications:

MASW findings are widely used in various geotechnical and engineering applications. It helps assess soil stability and slope stability, evaluate the potential for liquefaction during earthquakes, estimate site amplification effects, and analyze the dynamic response of structures. MASW data contributes to the geotechnical and seismic design of infrastructure projects, ensuring their safety and reliability.

Environmental Studies:

MASW can also be valuable in environmental studies. It aids in investigating subsurface conditions for environmental assessments, such as contaminant migration studies, groundwater investigations, and identifying potential subsurface hazards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *