Development of a simple trixial test for characterising bitumen stabilised materials

Mulusa, William Kapya (2009-03)

Thesis (MScEng (Civil Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

The need for a more reliable testing procedure for the characterisation and Quality Assurance/ Control of Bitumen Stabilised Materials (BSMs), besides UCS and ITS testing, has long been recognised by the roads industry. In fact, at CAPSA 2004 and CAPSA 2007, discussions of improved test methods for granular materials, i.e. possible replacement tests for CBR procedures, were conducted in workshops. Triaxial testing for the evaluation of shear parameters is widely recognised as a reliable method of measuring these critical performance properties of granular and Bitumen Stabilised Materials (BSMs). However, the triaxial test in its current state as a research test has little chance of extensive use by practitioners and commercial laboratories, because of complexity, cost and time issues. Major adaptations to the research triaxial test are necessary, before this useful test can have a chance of being accepted by road practitioners. The main aim of this study is to investigate possibilities of developing a simple, affordable, reliable and robust test for characterizing granular and bitumen stabilized materials thus linking test outcome with in-situ performance. This is achieved through the innovative design and manufacture of a prototype triaxial cell capable of accommodating 150 mm diameter by 300 mm deep specimens. The cell is simpler than the research (geotechnical) triaxial cell and the operational protocols have been streamlined, thereby reducing the time and steps required in assembling specimens and testing them. In order to ensure the development of an appropriate triaxial cell for industry, a survey was conducted aimed at investigating currently available facilities, testing capacity and resources within civil engineering laboratories in South Africa. Findings of the survey (Appendix 4) have provided guidance with regard to the nature and sophistication of any new tests to be developed. The survey highlighted some of the limitations and lack of sophistication of the current loading frames used for CBR and UCS testing such as lack of electronic LVDTs, limited overhead space, limited loading capacity and others. Most laboratories would need to invest in new loading facilities to carry out triaxial tests. A review of the test procedure for monotonic triaxial test showed that two main factors contribute to the complexity of the research (geotechnical) triaxial cell namely, time taken to assemble the specimen accurately in the cell and secondly the inherent design of the cell which makes it water and/or air tight at relatively high pressures. The design of the Simple Triaxial Test, therefore, was aimed at overcoming the drawbacks of research triaxial test e.g. fitting a membrane to each specimen to be tested, through considerable simplification by means of a new structure design and procedure of assembly of specimen into the cell. The advantage of addressing these issues would be reduction in the number of steps required in the test procedure and therefore reduction in testing time. The design of the cell particularly was preceded by a conceptualization process that involved investigation of numerous options. Concepts such as the bottle, encapsulated-tube, bottle and sandwich concepts were considered and given reality checks. In addition, available triaxial procedures of a similar nature e.g. Texas Triaxial, were evaluated and analyzed. Ultimately, with some trials and innovation, a design was developed for a simple triaxial cell comprising a steel casing with a latex tube which is then introduced around the specimen sitting on a base plate. It is based on the ‘tube concept’ in which the specimen acts like a ‘rim’ and the cell acts like a ‘tyre’ providing confinement to the triaxial specimens for testing, within the tube. This approach eliminates the use of O-rings and membranes for the specimen and tie-rods for the triaxial cell, thus reducing testing time considerably. The overall dimensions of the cell are 244 mm diameter by 372 mm height (Appendix 5). The cell was manufactured at Stellenbosch University Civil Engineering workshop and preliminary tests were conducted under this study. Parallel tests were also conducted with the Research Triaxial Test setup at Stellenbosch University in order to determine if preliminary results obtained with the Simple Triaxial Test setup were comparable therefore providing a means of validating the data. Results of analysis of variance (ANOVA) show that variability between Simple Triaxial Test (STT) and Research Triaxial Test (RTT) results is less significant whilst that within samples of STT and RTT results is quite significant. Comparisons also show that good correlation were obtained from Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) Hornfels + 3.3 % Emulsion + 0 % Cement mix and mixes with the G2 base course aggregate whilst completely different correlation was obtained from RAP + 3.3 % Emulsion + 1% Cement. It is evident however that the differences observed stem from material variability i.e. random variability to one degree or the other and not to the STT apparatus. It is recommended for future research that more STT versus RTT testing be done especially on a mix with known mechanical properties when compacted to a specified dry density, e.g. graded crushed stone (G1) compacted to 100% mod. AASHTO. In summary, a locally made, low cost, relatively durable triaxial cell with relatively easy and quick specimen assembly procedures has been developed. It is now possible to perform triaxial tests on 150 mm diameter by 300 mm high specimen relatively easily and quickly. However, the challenge of validating results obtained, as well as improving the manufacture process of its main component, the tube, still remains.

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