Influence of Mixture Characteristics on the Oxidative Aging of Asphalt Binders
AuthorMorian, Nathan E.
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The objective of this research effort focused on the evaluation of asphalt mixtures with respect to thermal cracking. Preliminary investigations soon indicated that a fundamental evaluation of thermal cracking was highly dependent upon the more complicated understanding of asphalt binder oxidation. The oxidation of asphalt binders within an asphalt mixture were understood to potentially be influenced by the mixture characteristics (i.e. air void levels, binder content, etc.) and aggregate properties (i.e. aggregate absorption, gradation, etc.). Therefore, this study was conducted in order to investigate and quantify the effects different aggregate sources and mixture properties may have on the oxidation and thermal cracking performance of asphalt mixtures. The investigation specifically focused on quantifying the oxidation of the asphalt binder alone and as part of the asphalt mixture when subjected to isothermal oven aging. The oxidation parameters of pan-aged asphalt binders were quantified, according to the standard of practice in the industry. These parameters were then compared to extracted and recovered mixture-aged asphalt binders to examine the influence of the main aggregate and mixture factors on the binder oxidation. The study observed differences between the pan-aged and mixture-aged asphalt binders in terms of oxidation kinetics, rheological measures, and the combined effect represented as the hardening susceptibility. Further evaluation of the binder oxidation based upon the dynamic modulus measures indicated marked influences of the mixture characteristics, the individual component materials, and the interactions between the investigated factors. Differentiation of the experimental factors was further identified by the newly developed low-temperature evaluation method, Uniaxial Thermal Stress and Strain Test (UTSST). The UTSST provides a fundamental approach to characterize the thermo-viscoelastic properties of asphalt mixtures permitting the pragmatic evaluation of changes in the stiffness and overall behavior of mixtures as a function of oxidative aging. Five distinct stages in the UTSST modulus were identified as thermo-viscoelastic properties, which are identified as a function of temperature: viscous softening, viscous-glassy transition, glassy hardening, crack initiation, and fracture stages. Through consideration of the thermo-viscoelastic properties, marked differences in the binder oxidation were noted between the experimental factors. Typically, decreases in the viscous response of the mixtures as well as increases in both the stiffness and brittle behavior were observed with aging. The evaluation method provides definitive measures to monitor multiple aspects of the performance of asphalt mixtures subjected to thermal loading.