Is pavement Quality of any Value

Over the past 50 or more years I have read about adding all sorts of waste materials to pavements or to the material beneath the pavements. Some of the materials have benefits, some are just garbage.

Research has shown that including reclaimed asphalt in new pavements has a benefit with respect to quality as well as cost. If the resulting blend of new and recycled asphalt meets the specification requirements, the pavement should be at least as good as pavements made with new asphalt. One value of the recycled material (RAP) is that the rate of oxidation of the old asphalt on the aggregate will be less than that of new asphalt on new aggregate. That is because the rate of oxidation of new asphalt on aggregate deceases with time, (except perhaps for an asphalt from one particular crude source). The RAP asphalt has already experience the rapid oxidation phase.

Recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) are now being used. At the present time I am not comfortable with that although future testing may find it works well. Shingles consist of an air blown saturate in a felt on which a filled coating asphalt is placed. The softening point of the coating is above 200° F. Past experience has shown that the presence of air blown asphalt can accelerate non-load associated cracking. I don’t know if the addition of elastomers helps with this problem or not. Non-load associated cracking occurs when the binder cannot relax thermal stresses before they reach the failure stress. Time will tell.

Pavements have been used to get rid of glass. This is a novelty as there isn’t enough glass around to have an impact. It can work, however it must be realized that glass likes water better than asphalt resulting in possible areas of water damage.

I have heard that some agencies are adding reclaimed oil to asphalt. That is a very bad idea as paraffins and asphaltenes are incompatible. Asphalt naturally contains some paraffins which are kept in solution by the aromatics and polar materials in asphalt. Loading up the asphalt with more paraffins can cause phase separation, which would be expected to cause non-load associated cracking. Before adding such oils to asphalt it might be well to read up on the research done by Rostler et al. half a century or more ago. Refineries have had corrosion problems with the addition of such oils to their crude feed.

Reclaimed tire buffings have been added to asphalt for many years with success. Truck tire buffings (natural rubber) and passenger tire buffings (SBR) will react differently. There can be a problem in QA testing. A contractor may specify that they have added a certain amount of the tire buffings but testing on a sample taken from construction may indicate that there was less than what the contractor said there was. The tire buffings would be expected to contain some processing oils which would be extracted out, and if there was natural rubber in the buffings, it might have broken down some as cis-polyisoprene (natural rubber) is not as heat stable as SBR. It would be well for the contractor to tell the owner how much of what was added would not be found.

The original specifications for asphalt and hot mix were based upon unmodified asphalt and aggregate. Experience has shown that those specifications can still be valid with the addition of certain polymers and with the addition of lime to the aggregate. However adding other materials to the pavement simply to get rid of them doesn’t mean there won’t be unforeseen consequences ever if such mixes meet specification requirements. Early non-load associated cracking is especially difficult to predict.


Asphalt Compositions Vary.

Those skilled in the art of asphalt technology have known that the composition of an asphalt depends primarily on the crude source. Secondary effects are oxidation and modification either by the addition of polymers or air blowing, which is controlled oxidation to make roofing, pond linings etc. The properties of an asphalt therefore can also vary according to the crude source. Back in the 1960s Rostler, White and others compiled a list of properties and compositions of a very large number of asphalts. It turns out that the properties of blends of asphalts from different sources are sometimes not predictable.

Blending Predictions

The plot of the loglog(viscosity) vs. log(absolute temperature) of an asphalt generally is a straight line. Special graph paper has been available for decades. It turns out that in blending petroleum products, including asphalt, using that graph paper with 0% of an oil at 100° F and 100% at 300° will generally be linear also. At times the X axis may be assumed to be linear rather than the log(absolute temperature). (In ASTM D4887, the X axis is linear.) The resulting plot is not always linear, however, depending upon the composition of the second ingredient. As an example, when blending recovered asphalt from RAP with an aromatic oil, such as Dutrex® 739 or Reclamite® base stock, the viscosity may drop faster than predicted. On the other hand, if a paraffinic oil is used, the actual viscosity may be higher than that predicted from the plot.

We had found that blending 50% 85/100 asphalt from California costal crude with 50% 85/100 asphalt from San Joachim Valley crude resulted in an asphalt with a penetration in the 130s. The same thing was found with a blend of Dubai asphalt with LA Basin asphalt. There are thermodynamic reasons for this based upon non-electrolyte solution chemistry.

Recycled Shingles (RAS)

Roofing asphalt is manufactured by air blowing fluxes containing added lube stock. This changes the composition. An asphalt shingle contains two different air blown products. One is used to saturate the felt or fiberglass while the other is a more viscous asphalt (more air blown) and used in the coating. These two asphalts might be incompatible as the coating asphalt, though harder, contains more oil. If the oil from the coating migrates to the felt or fiberglass the coating might slide off. There is a test used to measure compatibility. Also ferric chloride or phosphorus pentoxide might be used as a catalyst. As the use of air blown asphalt in paving has been correlated with non-load associated cracking, care should be taken in recycling such asphalt. Cracking occurs when the asphalt cannot relax stresses as fast as they build up. A low temperature ductility test is valuable in detecting asphalts that are prone to crack.

Recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) are now being used in paving. In recovering the asphalt from shingles the saturant asphalt and the coating asphalt are blended. It will be interesting in following the performance of pavements using RAS and RAS/RAP added asphalt. As mentioned above, historically, air blown asphalts in pavements are more prone to crack.


It is therefore important to understand that the terms “asphalt” or “bitumen” describe a broad set of materials as does the word “vehicle” in describing a set of transportation equipment. Just because two asphalts are black does not mean that they are compatible. And just because two asphalts are of the same grade, does not mean that a blend will be the same grade. Also, the oxidation process that occurs over time in the pavement is not the same as that which happens in the hot plants, and which is mimicked by the Rolling Thin Film Oven test (RTFO). The RTFO oxidation is the same process that occurs in air blowing. That implies that the chemistry of the oxidation of the asphalt in RAP is different than the chemistry of the asphalt in RAS.


Neither One is a Single Material


Asphalt and asphaltenes are names that show up in articles and papers discussing paving and roofing materials. Especial with people not very familiar with technical field, discussions often sound like each is a single well define material such as salt or water. However that is far from the fact. Some may even feel that asphaltenes are something in the way that needs to be isolated or corralled. Yet they are vital in controlling the properties of an asphalt. Also researchers may reach conclusions on an asphalt from a particular crude source and believe that those conclusions pertain to all asphalts.


Asphalt is the part of crude oil that is left when all the other hydrocarbons have been removed. There are two main ways of separating the asphalt from the gasoline, kerosene and oils; distilling, and solvent extraction.

Source. The properties of a particular unmodified asphalt are controlled by the source of the crude oil. The differences can be profound. In California there are three crude sources that produce entirely different asphalts: California Valley, Coastal and LA Basin. Within those broad designations are subgroups such as the coastal crudes; Santa Maria and San Ardo. A specification can be developed such that it can be met by asphalts from all three sources however they will perform differently. There are some asphalts that have very poor cold temperature performance and others that perform very badly in hot weather.

Distillation. In the distillation of crude oil, one pipe goes into the distillation towers, and a number of pipes come out. Each tower system is designed for a particular crude or crude blend and there are pumps removing the products. What is left over is asphalt on the bottom of the tower also. Some crude oils have no asphalts while others may contain as much as 65% asphalt. If any one of the storage tanks gets full, the refinery has to shut down.

Propane Extraction. The other method is to extract the non-asphalt portion with propane.


One of the components of asphalt is the asphaltenes. Here we have two problems: the misconception that asphaltenes are significantly different than other asphalt components, and the basic definition. While some methods define asphaltenes as n-pentane insoluble material, other methods use hexane or heptane or even iso-octane as the solvent. n-Pentane will produce the largest amount. Because certain asphaltenes are precipitated by a solvent doesn’t mean that there aren’t still other materials in the asphalt that are very similar to asphaltenes. Asphaltenes give body to the asphalt. If the asphaltenes are completely solvated, the asphalt won’t perform well. On the other hand, if they are in a second phase, again the asphalt may cause problems. In some cases, the asphaltenes will be at least solvated sufficiently at ambient temperatures for a single phase to be present, however they may form two phases in cold conditions, resulting in cracking in winter.


The addition of polymer modifiers further complicates the situation. Adding a polymer to any asphalt will result in two phases no matter how well the asphaltenes are solvated. When polymer modification was young problems with phase separation was a problem that had to be resolved. It can be seen that with a wide range of properties in asphalts, polymer modification can be more of an art than a science. One question I have is how well modified asphalts will perform in low temperatures even though they pass all of the low temperature test. For pavements to resist low temperature cracking the binder must be able to stress relax faster than thermal stresses build up. If the binder becomes more like a plastic with a yield force necessary, the pavement will crack.

Robert L. Dunning,,



Raveling is the loss of the mastic matrix in the surface of a pavement. This would be expected to occur with time but is aggravated by the presence of water. If the aggregate surface is not protected from water, traffic will cause raveling. This can be seen near curbs where often water is flowing. The asphalt is not pulled off but is floated off.

Water, a blessing and a bane! To get compaction in a subgrade or base, the water content must be at an option. A blessing. Even with cold recycling systems, the total liquid content (including water) must be optimum to get proper compaction. A blessing again. Obviously we love water, especially on a hot day. If we had a choice of a cool glass of water or a glass of warm lard, we would obviously choose water. Most aggregates are no different. If they have a choice, they would choose water to imbibe into their pores, not asphalt.

Our production system forcibly removes water from aggregate and equally forcibly makes the aggregate accept asphalt. That doesn’t make the aggregate happy and if it has the chance it will invite water back in through any defect in the coating and gleefully kick the asphalt off. Many aggregates have hydroxyl groups sticking out on the surface, which attracts water. In addition there may be water loving sodium and potassium exchangeable ions on the surfaces. These ions are the result of defects in the silicate and aluminate structure in the aggregate. In the silicate structure there may be an aluminum atom instead of silicon resulting in a structural negative charge. Likewise a magnesium atom may replace aluminum in the aluminate structure.

To combat this, amines or lime can be added to change the nature of the aggregate surface. Unfortunately, the protection may not last, especially if salt or magnesium chloride is used for deicing. The chemical principle of mass action can reverse the action of these antistrips. One solution has been to graph onto the aggregate surface an organosilicon material that actually becomes an integral part of the aggregate and thus cannot be dislodged. The aggregate then changes allegiance so strongly that it actually forcibly rejects water and opens its pores to the asphalt.

So to control raveling, the adverse affect of water must be controlled. This is especially important with raveling as it occurs on the surface where the pavement will be often in contact with water. The best solution is to persuade the aggregates to distain the advances of their first love and turn to a new one that is not so transparent.

Robert L. Dunning,,


Using Local Materials

Roads are absolutely necessary for economies to succeed. Yet in these perilous economic times, funds are not available to build them to luxury standards. However there is technology available that allows the construction of very usable roads using materials already in-place.

Asphalt Emulsion Stabilized Bases. With soils with a plasticity index of 6 or less asphalt emulsions could be considered for base stabilization. This technology has been around for decades. I published a paper in the 1965 Proc. Asphalt Paving Technology on asphalt emulsion stabilized bases which included a mix design. We had found that one inch of stabilized base could replace about 1 ¼” of crushed aggregate base. For roads with low truck traffic a chip seal might be used as a wearing surface. A word of caution, the same care must be taken for compaction as with soils, and in calculating the maximum density; the liquid would be the sum of the emulsion and added water. There are some sophisticated emulsion formulations in which the emulsion “sets” and kicks out water, however they are not available everywhere.

Another caution. Just because an emulsion is labeled “slow set” does not mean it will necessarily mix with all in-place soils. We once were working with a particular slow set emulsion that was working quite well. On this project we first treated the soil with lime then stabilized it with a slow set emulsion. To save money, the contractor switched to another slow set emulsion, which didn’t work. In emulsion stabilization the mixed soil should be brown. In this case it came out the same color as it was before mixing, indicating that then emulsion was coagulating and balling up rather than coating.

Emulsion Based Macadams. When I was in Panama many years ago I witnessed the construction of a macadam using CRS-2 asphalt emulsion. The emulsion was manufactured by a company for whom I was doing consulting on asphalt emulsion manufacturing. A typical macadam construction technique was used. First a layer of large stone was place followed by a layer of asphalt emulsion. Following that were consecutive layers of aggregate and emulsion with each aggregate size ½ the size of the proceeding one. The last layer was sand. Since CRS-2 emulsions break as soon as it contacts the aggregate, it appeared to work in the tropics.

Lime Stabilization. For soils too plastic for using asphalt emulsions, lime stabilization might be the selection.

Cold In-Place Recycling.  Cold in-place recycling is being used in the United States especially in place of hauling new aggregate base. For low truck traffic the wearing surface could be a single or double chip seal. For heavier traffic, however, hot mix should be used.

This short piece was to suggest that there may be lower cost options for constructing roads in rural areas. For any question contact me at in English or Spanish. (I have also had a couple of years of Russian but that was a lifetime ago, but I can read the Cyrillic alphabet. Although my knowledge of Russian has retreated to the far reaches of my brain, we do have a large Russian population here so we can accept Russian inquiries.)

Robert L. Dunning.

Recycled Pavement or Black Rocks

I have been working with recycled asphalt since presenting an AAPT paper in 1975 on 100% asphalt recycling. I have always considered all of the asphalt was acting as binder. I am not so sure anymore. As more and more RAP is being used the question comes up whether all of the asphalt in the mix should be considered truly asphalt or actually be part of the aggregate.  We have noticed that mixes that require, say, 5.1% asphalt  with no RAP may require 5.5-5.7% asphalt. The next question is whether the formation of the “black rocks” is actually the true condition of the RAP, or whether coking of the asphalt happened during the mix design phase because the technician added the RAP too soon in the mix cycle, such as leaving it in the aggregate in the oven overnight. This would not be happening in cold-in-place recycling. If part of the asphalt is not working as binder, perhaps we should change the mix design criteria as to how we calculate VMA etc.