Prior to SHRP the mix designs in use were the Marshall and Hveem procedures. They were developed my user agencies and performed well for many decades. The Marshall design is still being used. The SHRP mix design was developed by academics who would not have had the field experience that state agencies would have had. The universities have provided many great advances in paving; however they do not have the experience of personnel with years of experience in road building. However they often have the power to place academic theories into practice. Following are certain problems with the specifications.

Incorrect Use of Maximum Density Line.
 The maximum density line shown in the specifications is based on the maximum aggregate size rather than the nominal size (screen size that first retains aggregate.). The aggregate retained between the maximum size and the nominal size would act in conjunction with that of the material between the nominal size and the next screen size smaller as there is not enough material to interlock. The actual maximum density line that pertains to the mix design is from the nominal screen size to zero. (Using the 0.45 power of the sieve size on the x axis. Note, Rudy Jiménez at The University of Arizona, believed that it should be the 0.50 power; that is, the square root, and he was probably correct.) To properly make judgments about the gradation of the mix, one needs to have the maximum density line that corresponds to the actual aggregate to be used. I was taught this by Vaughn Marker when he was Asphalt Institute Engineer in California. Properly used, it can stop mix problems, such as tender mixes and rutting, from happening.

Forbidden Zone of the Gradation.  This was placed in the specification by academics using the maximum density line from the maximum size gradation not the nominal size gradation. Also it had no value with respect to quality .

Specifications Allow Over-Sanded Mixes. All mix designs allow gradations that will cause tenderness and accelerate rutting. If the proper maximum density line is used, such mixes are readily detected, however that is not so with the worthless maximum density line in the present design procedure. Rutting is highly dependent upon where the VMA in a mix comes from also, which I will discuss in a future blog.

Asphalt Grading Specifications

 The grading specification should be on the RTFO residue as that is what is in the road. Also, the RTFO test should realistically be such that it approximates the properties of the asphalt in the mix in place. The TRFO was designed to mimic the increase in viscosity of the asphalt that is mixed in a batch plant at 320°F with the oxygen partial pressure the same as air. Things are different in a drum mixer. If the air in the drum mixer is 4 times that needed to burn the fuel, the oxygen partial pressure will be decreased by 25% from the combustion reducing the rate of oxidation. Also if moisture is present, the partial pressure of the oxygen will b further decreased. Also if the mixer runs at a temperature less that 320° F, the rate   of oxidation will be further reduced.



Superiority of the AR Grading System


AR Grading. The Asphalt Residue (AR) grading system used in the Western part of the United States for decades grew out of the fact that the asphalts in this area differed greatly. While various grades were in use, the workhorse grade was AR 4000 which meant that the asphalt in the pavement, irrespective of crude source, would have the same consistency. AR 4000 meant that the viscosity at 60° C of the asphalt after the RTFO test would be 3000 (2500 in Washington) to 5000 poises. A viscosity of 4000 poise was selected as it was found that at 4000 poises tenderness in oversanded mixes was easier to handle.  60° C is used as in most cases that is about the highest temperature the pavement reaches although in the deserts it can reach considerably higher temperatures. On the other hand, the viscosity at 60° C from the RTFO of equivalent asphalts graded by the AC grading system (2000 ± 400 poises based on original viscosity at 60° F) or by penetration grading system (85/100 based on penetration at 25° C) can vary greatly. For the 85/100 penetration grade, the range of the 60° C viscosity after the RTFO of those asphalts evaluated during the development of the AR grading system varied from about 1600 to over 7000 poises. For an AC 2000 grade asphalt, the probable viscosity after the RTFO aging would range over about 4000-8000 poises, depending on the crude source. The equivalent PG grade is PG 64-XX.

PG Grading. There is an astounding number of PG grades, 7, and up to 6 subgrades within each grade, based upon low temperature properties. If there was consistency within the grades it might make sense, but we have regressed even back beyond the AC grading system. These grades were set up primarily to control tenderness and rutting even while leaving the gradation specification so open that gradations that would allow grievous rutting are included. The equivalent PG grade is based upon the Dynamic Shear test of G*/sinδ of 1.00 kPa at 64° C with no maximum. For a sinδ of 1.00 (close to that of unmodified asphalt) the viscosity is G*· sinδ or 1000 poises. The G*/sinδ value from the RTFO test would be 2.20 kPa min or 2200 poises with sinδ = 1.00 and again there is no maximum. Sinδ for modified asphalts is less than one thus that drops the specification minimum viscosity below that of non-modified asphalt.` In other words, for the asphalt as placed in the pavement, the AR 4000 specification is 3000-5000 poises at 60° C. For the PG 64-XX , the-in place viscosity at 64° C can vary from somewhat less than 2200 poises to as high as one wishes.



Philosophical Inconsistency of the PG Grading System. I am only addressing the grading system, not the value of the low temperature specification. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the use of the DSR, as it is a handy tool. I am suggesting that the grading should have been based upon the consistency of the RTFO residue whether viscosity tubes are used or the DSR. The value of the DSR data is that we can get information about the effect of polymer modification from the phase angle, sigma (δ).

We have shown above that the range of the allowed viscosity from the RTFO test of any particular PG grade is greater than that of any previous grading system even though there is are 7 specific grades in order to control rutting. The implication is that controlling rutting requires fine tuning. Yet, at the same time there is a movement to use warm mixes, one of the benefits of which is that the asphalt will have a considerably lower viscosity than the intention of the grade.

Controlling Rutting. The prime control of tenderness and rutting should be with aggregate gradation.  As long as the gradation specification allows badly oversanded mixes, rutting will be a problem.

Robert L. Dunning, chemistdunning@gmail.com, www.petroleumsciences.com