Federal Highway Administration
Iowa Department of Transportation
Iowa Highway Research Board
About the research
This project utilized information from ground penetrating radar (GPR) and visual inspection via the pavement profile scanner (PPS) in proof-of-concept trials. GPR tests were carried out on a variety of portland cement concrete pavements and laboratory concrete specimens. Results indicated that the higher frequency GPR antennas were capable of detecting subsurface distress in two of the three pavement sites investigated. However, the GPR systems failed to detect distress in one pavement site that exhibited extensive cracking. Laboratory experiments indicated that moisture conditions in the cracked pavement probably explain the failure. Accurate surveys need to account for moisture in the pavement slab. Importantly, however, once the pavement site exhibits severe surface cracking, there is little need for GPR, which is primarily used to detect distress that is not observed visually.
Two visual inspections were also conducted for this study by personnel from Mandli Communications, Inc., and the Iowa DOT. The surveys were conducted using an Iowa DOT video log van that Mandli had fitted with additional equipment. The first survey was an extended demonstration of the PPS system. The second survey utilized the PPS with a downward imaging system that provided high-resolution pavement images. Experimental difficulties occurred during both studies; however, enough information was extracted to consider both surveys successful in identifying pavement surface distress.
The results obtained from both GPR testing and visual inspections were helpful in identifying sites that exhibited materials-related distress, and both were considered to have passed the proof-of-concept trials. However, neither method can currently diagnose materials-related distress. Both techniques only detected the symptoms of materials-related distress; the actual diagnosis still relied on coring and subsequent petrographic examination. Both technologies are currently in rapid development, and the limitations may be overcome as the technologies advance and mature.