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Road marking glass beads: How do they work?

The one place you wouldn’t usually want to find glass, aside from your kitchen floor, is on our roads. Surely that would create a load of punctures and expensive repair bills?

Well, glass is regularly used on the roads we use every day - specifically in the form of glass beads. And they’re a really important safety feature of our highways.

In the US, it’s estimated that almost 230 million kilograms of glass beading is used in surface markings each year with demand so high for the product that domestic supply can’t keep up!

What are road marking glass beads and how do they work?

Road marking glass beads are what they say on the tin - tiny beads of reflective glass (soda lime glass to be specific) that are either added to line marking material or used as a covering.

They work by retroreflecting light that bounces off them. This is a huge safety benefit for critical line markings as it ensures that, no matter the conditions, they are visible to road users - especially a driver approaching them.

The other benefit of glass beads in road markings is that they increase durability. When a car drives over a road marking with glass beads, the wheel itself is mainly making contact with the durable glass instead of the paint. In fact, glass beads in road markings make them four to five times more durable.

Whilst increasing the total cost of a road marking project, glass beads decrease the total long-term maintenance cost of the zone as well as making it safer for all road users. Glass beads are also relatively easy to apply, especially when using a mechanically-operated, handheld glass bead dispenser.


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