The National Academies

NCHRP IDEA 20-30/IDEA 016 [Completed (IDEA)]

Laser Removal of Paint on Pavement
[ NCHRP 20-30 (NCHRP-IDEA) ]

  Project Data
Staff Responsibility: Dr. Inam Jawed

The goal of this project was to develop a mobile highway paint removing system based on pulsed laser. The concept was to apply a succession of short, intense laser pulses that create destructive shock waves rather than heating paint to the point where chemical reactions occur. The product’s impact will be (a) the elimination of the usual environmental contaminants such as grit, dust, smoke, and chemicals; (b) prevention of damage to pavement during paint removal; and (c) complete removal for compliance with federal codes that require no visible trace of temporary markings on newly constructed roadways. Work in the initial phase of the project established the feasibility of using a laser to remove markings from highway materials. A prototype portable laser was developed for removal of paint from the pavement of highways, parking lots, and airfield runways. The removal was clean, but not fast. Several methods that would possibly speed the removal were defined and investigated. The dominant variables were power density (watts/cm2) and pulse duration. Work then focused on selecting and testing a laser that could be used to demonstrate removal of markings in field conditions. The laser needed to meet certain specifications and still remove a painted stripe as rapidly as possible (hopefully at a rate that is competitive with sandblasting). The requirements included reliability in a highway environment (flash lamps easy to change, realignment not necessary, etc.), optimum pulse energy density, pulse duration and wavelength, and, most important, maximum average power for the size and cost of the laser. Consequently a new more powerful system was designed.  

The present system uses a new high-power laser that produces short pulses at 1.06-ìm wavelength and has shown promising results on asphalt and concrete surfaces in laboratory tests. The paint removal efficiency of the laser system also depends on the type of the paint. Epoxybased paints were removed with better efficiency than other paints. The system was attached to a mobile carriage for field demonstration. Further optimization and field trials are needed in order to establish the effectiveness of the system in the field.
Demonstrations of the prototype mobile unit on highway or parking lot markings or both are planned for the departments of transportation of nearby states, starting with Nevada. It will also be demonstrated to companies that deal in highway markings. If these demonstrations create sufficient interest, then commercially viable field units will be designed and implemented for removal of highway markings. The final report is available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS # PB2000-104071).

The final report for this IDEA project can be found at:



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