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Infrared Thermography Revolutionizes Hot-Mix Asphalt Paving

Hot-Mix Paving: A Thermal infrared image generated by a FLIR infrared camera
Hot-mix asphalt (HMA) surfaces comprise about 90% of the roads and highways in the United States. Although they are engineered to last fifteen years or more, early failures due to potholes and cracks are common and costly. Premature failures cost taxpayers millions of unnecessary dollars every year.

Using cutting edge research and IR technology, the Washington State Department of Transportation was able to conduct a study to shed light on the problem. Their work confirmed that one of the most common causes of road failure were temperature differentials during hot-mix laydown. Cooler areas had lower densities and were prone to raveling, potholes and cracks. Reblending the HMA prior to laydown helped to reduce temperature differentials significantly, sometimes by as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, Washington’s Department of Transportation has guidelines for laying pavement, with specific temperature differential guidelines and density requirements. An IR camera makes it possible to follow these guidelines while laying the road, identifying potential problems in real time. These new guidelines have led to smoother roads and quicker commutes. The savings for taxpayers are an additional, welcome bonus.