Keeping the noise down

A new research project into tyre noise on roads could lead to recommendations for improving the security and noise performance of Europe’s roads.

The project, which is being carried out by Dr. Roger Pinnington and his team at the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration (ISVR) and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, aims to develop a model tyre that the researchers can use to gauge whether it is the tyre or the road surface that is producing the noise.

Road traffic noise in populated areas is regarded as a type of environmental pollution, reducing the general quality of life of those affected. Research and development over the past 20 years has revealed that the main noise is no longer caused by engines and exhaust systems but by road-tyre interaction.

‘When you hear a car passing, most of the noise is from the tyres,’ comments Dr. Pinnington, who is currently based in Greece. ‘Tyre noise is a big issue in Europe generally. In Greece, the roads are very smooth so you get a lot of screeching noise and the grip is not good, contributing, as far as I remember, to a death rate 12 times that of England. There is a major interest here in Greece in making the road quality better.’

The tyre model being developed will allow the researchers to determine whether the problem of traffic noise is the responsibility of the tyre manufacturers or the road constructors. Road-tyre noise can be broadly divided into two types: ‘rolling’ tyre noise and ‘slipping’ tyre noise; the model will ultimately enable them to interact the tyre against the road surface to model both of these sources of noise.

‘Research into road-tyre interaction is in its infancy even though it is now the main cause of traffic noise,’ comments Dr. Pinnington.

The British team in the UK/Greek collaboration forms part of the current EC-funded RATIN (Road And Tyre Interaction Noise) project.