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Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Science in Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering

Major Advisor

Arvin Farid, Ph.D

Major Advisor

Ken Cornell, Ph.D.


Yang Lu, Ph.D.


The application of electromagnetic (EM) waves to measure the electrical properties (dielectric constant and loss tangent) of materials is a well-known approach. The electrical properties can be used to indirectly measure several physical properties of solutions in water such as the concentration and chemical composition of contaminants in water, as the representative of the liquid phase in soil. A capacitive method of measuring dielectric properties of solutions is proposed to detect and determine chemical and biological contaminations at low concentrations in water. The primary objective of this project is to design a low-cost sensor requiring small volumes of samples to detect the dissolved contaminants in water. After measurements are collected, the next step is to eliminate the errors in order to improve the precision of the designed sensor as much as possible to accommodate detection of very low-concentration contaminants. A forward model was developed using a finite-element method (FEM) to simulate the experimental setup (EXP). A calibration function was also developed to minimize deviations between FEM and EXP results for benchmark/reference solutions with known dielectric properties. The forward model was then inverted to calculate the electrical properties of unknown solutions using the corresponding EXP results.