Development of a long-term durability specification for polymer modified asphalt
Woo, Won Jun
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In recent years an increased use of polymers has occurred to modify asphalt binders, mainly to decrease pavement rutting but also to improve binder failure strain in direct tension. Whereas all of these effects positively impact the durability of polymermodified pavements, a need exists to quantify these improvements and the duration in the presence of oxidative aging. This research evaluated the durability of polymer modified asphalt (PMA) through a number of determinations that included the characterization of the original binder property and pavement-aged binder for modified and unmodified binders. Changes in styrene-butadiene-styrene (SBS) polymer modified binder properties from oxidation were analyzed using dynamic shear rheometry, ductility, and force ductility. Previous literature reports using size exclusion chromatography showed that degradation of the molecular weight profile of SBS accompanied the loss of PMA ductility. Yet base binder embrittlement also occurred, as evidenced by ductility and force ductility. Testing aged PMA binders at higher temperatures to soften the base binder restored the polymer modulus to the force ductility measurements as did blending with a softer deasphalted oil. These measurements indicate that the more significant cause of PMA degradation with aging is base binder embrittlement rather than polymer degradation. Sixteen pavements in 11 Texas Districts, plus four MnRoad pavements were evaluated in order to obtain a more detailed profile of binder oxidation in pavements. Slices of each core provided detail on binder oxidation and air voids. The data confirm that binders can oxidize at least several inches into the pavement. However, oxidation also can be significantly slowed, apparently by very low accessible air voids. Interestingly, the data indicate that the air voids that are relevant to the binder at a specific depth of the pavement are those in the immediate vicinity of the binder; low air voids above or below the binder do not seem to significantly affect the binder oxidation rate. Furthermore, that binders oxidize inches below the surface shows that temperature conducts well into the pavement, consistent with a heat conduction model that is used to calculate ground temperatures as a function of depth.