Profilometer - Road Pavement Profilometery

Road Pavement Profilometery

Road pavement profilometers (aka profilographs, as used in the famous 1958-1960 AASHO Road Test) use a distance measuring laser (suspended approximately 30 cm from the pavement) in combination with an odometer and an inertial unit (normally an accelerometer to detect vehicle movement in the vertical plane) that establishes a moving reference plane to which the laser distances are integrated. The inertial compensation makes the profile data more or less independent of what speed the profilometer vehicle had during the measurements, with the assumption that the vehicle does not make large speed variations and the speed is kept above 25 km/h or 15 mph. The profilometer system collects data at normal highway speeds, sampling the surface elevations at intervals of 2–15 cm (1–6 in), and requires a high speed data acquisition system capable of obtaining measurements in the kilohertz range.

The data collected by a profilometer is used to calculate the International Roughness Index (IRI) which is expressed in units of inches/mile or mm/m. IRI values range from 0 (equivalent to driving on a plate of glass) upwards to several hundred in/mi (a very rough road). The IRI value is used for road management to monitor road safety and quality issues.

Many road profilers also measure the pavement's cross slope, curvature, longitudinal gradient and rutting. Some profilers take digital photos or videos while profiling the road. Most profilers also record the position, using GPS technology. Another quite common measurement option is cracks. Some profilometer systems include a ground penetrating radar, used to record asphalt layer thickness.

Another type of profilometer is for measuring the surface texture of a road and how it relates to the coefficient of friction and thus to skid resistance. Pavement texture is divided into three categories: megatexture (roads), macrotexture, and microtexture. Microtexture cannot currently be measured directly, except in a laboratory. Megatexture is measured using a similar profiling method as when obtaining IRI values, while macrotexture is the measurement of the individual variations of the road within a small interval of a few centimeters. For example, a road which has gravel spread on top followed by an asphalt seal coat will have a high macrotexture, and a road built with concrete slabs will have low macrotexture. For this reason, concrete is often grooved or roughed up immediately after it is laid on the road bed to increase the friction between the tire and road.

Equipment to measure macrotexure currently consists of a distance measuring laser with an extremely small spot size (< 1 mm) and data acquisition systems capable of recording elevations spaced at a mm or less apart. The sample rate is generally over 32 kHz. Macrotexture data can be used to calculate the speed-depending part of the friction number between typical car tires and the road surface. The macrotexture also give information on the difference between dry and wet road friction. However, macrotexture cannot be used to calculate a relevant friction number, since also microtexture affects the friction.

Lateral friction and cross slope are the key reaction forces acting to keep a cornering vehicle in steady lateral position, while exposed to exciting forces from speed and curvature. Since friction is strongly dependent on macrotexture and texture, cross slope as well as curvature can be measured with a road profiler, so road profilers are very useful to identify improperly banked curves that may pose a risk to motor vehicles.

Read more about this topic:  Profilometer

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