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Dry and wet retroreflective performance: glass beads


Dry and wet retroreflective performance: glass beads

While glass beads still have lane-marking advantages, they are problematic during rain or when under water because they sometimes seem to disappear from the driver’s vantage point. The answer to the question about why pavement markings disappear in the rain is found in the physics of retroreflectivity and the index of refraction—as it relates to pavement markings, how light is bent when entering and exiting retroreflective media.

When properly embedded in a striping binder, glass beads under dry conditions redirect light back to its source, e.g. the driver with his or her headlights on. This is called retroreflection. The driver can see that the light appears to be coming from the striping. During rainy or foggy weather, the glass beads are covered in water, which makes non-ideal refractive index layers. This is like putting on the wrong pair of glasses and seeing things out of focus. Headlights bounce off the water surface and from the beads in many directions other than back to the driver, so the driver cannot see the striping. Consider how a straw in a water glass appears to bend to one side.

Nighttime color of pavement markings is also important. Standard glass beads are clear, so they depend on a colored binder to perform adequately. When using a yellow binder, they can appear washed-out at night.

3M pavement markings in the 1930s and 1940s

précédent: Rain Night Reflective Glass Beads


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