Laboratory physical modeling and laser-based experiments are frequently proposed to tackle theoretical and methodological issues related to seismic prospecting, e.g., when experimental validations of processing or inversion techniques are required. Lasers are mainly used to simulate typical field acquisition setups on homogeneous and consolidated materials assembled into laboratory-scale physical models (PMs) of various earth structures. We suggested the use of granular materials to study seismic-wave propagation in unconsolidated and porous media and target near-surface exploration and hydrogeologic applications. We designed and tested the reproducibility of an experimental procedure to build and probe PMs consisting of micrometric glass beads (GBs). A mechanical source and a laser-Doppler vibrometer were used to record small-scale seismic lines at the surface of three GBs models. When guided surface acoustic mode theory should prevail in such unconsolidated granular packed structure under gravity, we only considered elastic-wave propagation in stratified media to interpret recorded data. Thanks to basic seismic processing and inversion methods (first arrivals and dispersion analyses), we were able to correctly retrieve the gradients of pressure- and shear-wave velocities in our models. A 3D elastic finite difference simulation of the experiment offered, despite significant differences in terms of amplitudes, a supplementary validation of our approximation, as far as elastic properties of the medium were concerned.

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