Characterisation of material properties and behaviour of cold bituminous mixtures for road pavements

Ebels, Lucas-Jan (2008-03)

Thesis (PhD (Civil Engineering))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


The cold bituminous mixtures, which are the subject of this study, are obtained by mixing mineral aggregate with either bitumen emulsion or foamed bitumen at ambient temperatures. These techniques are frequently used in Cold In-Place Recycling whereby typically the top 150 – 250 mm of the existing pavement is reworked, as a rehabilitation measure when structural maintenance is required. To differentiate from the cold mixes for surfacing layers the term Bitumen Stabilised Materials (BSM’s) is adopted here. The increased use of BSM’s, shortcomings in the existing design guidelines and manuals and ongoing developments in the concepts and understanding of these materials require further research into the fundamental properties and behaviour of BSM’s. Achieving a better understanding of the fundamental performance properties of BSM’s is the main objective of this study, with a view to using the extended knowledge for improvements to current mix design and structural design practices. The state-of-the-art of bitumen emulsion and foamed bitumen techniques is reviewed in a literature study. Current best practices in the design of BSM’s and pavements incorporating such materials is also included in this literature study. Shortcomings and areas for further improvement of the design practice have been identified. With new environmental legislation that recently came into effect in South Africa, the importance of BSM technology as an environmentally-friendlier and more sustainable construction technique is set to increase in the coming years. A laboratory testing programme was set-up to study the properties and behaviour of BSM’s and to establish links with the compositional factors, i.e. the type of binder used, the percentage of Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) in the mix and the addition of a small dosage of cement as active filler. The mineral aggregates used were sourced in the USA and consisted of crushed limestone rock and RAP millings. These were blended in two different proportions of crushed rock : RAP, i.e. 3:1 (with 3.6 % residual binder) and 1:3 (with 2.4 % residual binder). Tri-axial testing (150 mm diamter) was carried out to determine shear parameters, resilient modulus and permanent deformation behaviour, while four-point beam testing was carried out to determine strain-at-break, flexural stiffness and fatigue behaviour. It was found that the process of bitumen stabilisation improves the shear strength of the material, particularly in case 1 % of cement is added as active filler. This increase in shear strength is entirely the result of increased cohesion. There is a good correlation between the shear strength and the resilient modulus of BSM’s. The resilient modulus of BSM is stress-dependent and the Mr-θ model is adequate to model the resilient modulus of the blends with a low percentage of RAP. For the blends with a higher percentage of RAP this model cannot be applied and the resilient modulus reduces in stiffness at higher deviator stress ratios. A considerable part of the efforts of this study were dedicated to characterise and model the permanent deformation behaviour. The General Permanent Deformation Law as originally developed by Francken applies also to BSM’s. An improved nonlinear method to converge at a solution for the model parameters that describe the tertiary flow part of this deformation law was developed as part of this study. Parameters that can be derived from the first stage of the permanent deformation test, i.e. initial strain and initial strain rate as defined in this study, were found that correlate well with the model parameters that describe the first linear part of the deformation law. Critical deviator stress ratios for the several mixes tested were determined. When BSM’s are subjected to loading below these ratios, tertiary flow is unlikely to occur. A high variability was generally found in the four-point beam test results, especially for the strain-at-break. Specimen preparation protocols and the quality of the beam specimens are of utmost importance when performing four-point beam tests on BSM’s. This limits the practical applications of the strain-at-break test. Trends observed in the strain-at-break were also inconsistent and sometimes not in line with the other type of tests. BSM’s exhibit a visco-elastic behaviour, which was determined by flexural stiffness testing, however, to a lesser extent than HMA. Phase angles and Black Diagrams were developed for the BSM’s tested, which also made it possible to determine the parameters of the Burgers Model, which is a mechanical model describing viscoelastic behaviour. Fatigue relationships were also developed for the BSM’s tested. The fatigue performance of these mixes is lower than for selected HMA mixes. The foamed BSM generally showed better fatigue life than emulsion BSM, however, the lower initial stiffness of the foamed BSM’s may contribute to a perceived longer fatigue life. For the mixes tested, the flexural stiffness of foamed BSM’s is generally also lower than that of emulsion BSM’s It is recommended that the mix design of BSM’s be split into two phases. During the first phase the usually large number of variables could be reduced to a selected few by means of UCS and ITS indicator testing. Subsequently, more fundamental parameters should be determined during the second phase, such as shear strength and resilient modulus, as well as permanent deformation behaviour. The fact that commercial laboratories in South Africa do not have tri-axial testing facilities is currently a practical limiting factor. Initiatives currently underway to develop “simple” shear tests are welcomed in this regard. It is proposed that classification of BSM is based on shear strength. There are indications that shear failure in BSM is more critical than failure as a result of fatigue. The effect of curing resulting in an increase in BSM stiffness in the period after construction, i.e. typically 6 to 18 months, is currently ignored in structural design models. The rapid stiffness reduction of BSM’s during the first period after construction in the current structural design models and also found during Accelerated Pavement Testing is not being observed in Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP). On the contrary, an increase in stiffness is observed in LTPP. This would indicate that stiffness reduction as a result of fatigue does not occur or is overshadowed by the effect of curing and that fatigue as a failure mechanism of BSM’s is currently over-emphasized.

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