Mix design considerations and performance characteristics of foamed bitumen mixtures (FBMs)

Kuna, Kranthi (2015) Mix design considerations and performance characteristics of foamed bitumen mixtures (FBMs). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The sustainability issues in pavement materials and design form a strong incentive for the present work. Using recycled materials in pavements is a sustainable practice that is gaining adoption, particularly for flexible (bituminous) pavements. One approach is to incorporate large quantities of Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) into base and sub-base applications for pavement construction. Numerous studies have reported that RAP can be reused as an aggregate in Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) as well as in cold mix asphalt, granular base, sub-base, and subgrade courses. Cold recycling technology, like hot mix technology, has also become popular in various countries for rehabilitation of damaged bituminous pavements. RAP stabilized with bitumen emulsion and foamed bitumen has been used as a base layer. The present study focuses on Foamed Bitumen treated Mixes (FBMs). Most of the agencies which use FBMs have their own mix design procedures which are the result of numerous efforts over decades. In spite of all these efforts, Foamed Bitumen application in cold recycling in the United Kingdom suffers from the lack of a standardised mix design procedure. To overcome this, the present research objective was to develop a mix design procedure by identifying critical mix design parameters. The mix design parameters that were optimised were Foamed Bitumen content, mixing water content (MWC), and compaction effort. Special attention was given to the simplest yet crucial mix design consideration of FBMs; curing. The thesis also attempted to simulate what should be expected in terms of the performance of flexible pavements containing FBMs as road base.

The mix design parametric study was initially carried out on FBMs with virgin limestone aggregate (VA) without RAP material and a mix design procedure was proposed. Optimum MWC was achieved by optimising mechanical properties such as Indirect Tensile Stiffness Modulus (ITSM) and Indirect Tensile Strength (ITS-dry and ITS-wet). A rational range of 75-85% of Optimum Water Content (OWC) obtained by the modified Proctor test was found to be the optimum range of MWC that gives optimum mechanical properties for FBMs. The proposed methodology was also found to apply to FBMs with 50% RAP and 75% RAP. It was also found that the presence of RAP influenced the design FB content, which means that treating RAP as black rock in FBM mix design is not appropriate. This work also evaluated the validity of the total fluid (water + bitumen) concept which is widely used in bitumen-emulsion treated mixes.

The present work was also intended to better understand the curing mechanism of FBMs and to lessen the gap between laboratory curing and field evolution of these mixtures. This was achieved by evaluating different curing regimes that are being followed by different agencies and researchers, as well as identifying important parameters that affect curing. In achieving this, a link was established between laboratory mix design and field performance by evaluating applicability of the maturity method. The curing regime study provided a valid investigation into the behaviour of FBM taking into account the effect of temperature, curing conditioning (Sealed or Unsealed), curing duration and the influence of cement with different curing regimes. It was found that the temperature is as important a parameter as time, as temperature has a greater influence on curing rate and also on bitumen properties. Moreover, higher curing temperatures resulted in higher rate of stiffness gain. This trend is not only because of rapid water loss but also implies an increase in binder stiffness at higher curing temperatures. Though the presence of RAP improved the early stage stiffness of FBMs, it slowed down the rate of water loss from the specimens which resulted in smaller stiffness values at a later stage. The experimental results also indicated that cement addition has no influence on water loss trends, but improved the stiffness significantly during all stages of curing.

The study also evaluated the applicability of the maturity method as a tool to assess the in-situ characteristic of FBM layers in the pavement. It was found that replacing the time term with an equivalent age term in the maturity function aided in estimating stiffness rather than relative stiffness. This was possible because of the characteristic curing of FBM in which the limiting stiffness these mixtures reach strongly depends on the curing temperature at least for the length of the curing stages considered in the present study. A strong correlation was found between maturity and the stiffness values obtained from the laboratory tests which resulted in development of maturity-stiffness relationships. The application of the method to assess the in-situ stiffness was presented using three hypothetical pavement sections. The results showed the influence of ambient temperature and the importance of cement addition to FBMs.

The permanent deformation resistance was assessed by performing RLAT tests on cylindrical specimens compacted by gyratory compactor. The RLAT test results indicate that both test temperature and stress level have significant influence on permanent deformation characteristics as expected. The effect of stress on permanent deformation was increased with increase in test temperature. It was also found that from limited tests and mixture combinations, RAP content has only a slight influence on permanent deformation of FBMs. However, the presence of cement led to significant improvement. FBMs were also found to be less temperature susceptible than HMA in terms of permanent deformation and, within FBMs, mixtures with cement were found to be more sensitive than FBMs without any cement.

For assessing the fatigue performance of FBMs, the ITFT was initially used to investigate the effect of cement on the fatigue life. The ITFT tests results showed that the FBMs without cement (50%RAP-FBM) have lower fatigue life than HMA (DBM90) at any initial strain level. Nevertheless, similar to permanent deformation, the fatigue life was improved with the addition of 1% cement to FBMs. However, the above discussion was not found to be completely valid when uniaxial tests were carried out. In stress controlled uniaxial tests, a sinusoidal load of 1Hz frequency was applied axially to induce tensile strain in the radial direction. The failure criterion considered in the study was the number of cycles to reach 50% stiffness and this was plotted against the measured initial strain values. Results indicated that there was not much difference in fatigue life among different mixtures and also between FBM and HMA. However, stiffness evolution curves showed that FBMs fail in a different pattern compared to HMA. Unlike HMA, which showed a three stage evolution process, for FBMs the stiffness actually increased initially to reach a maximum and decreased at a slower rate until failure. It was also found that by plotting curves according to Hopman et al.,(1989) which identifies the fatigue failure transition point, use of the 50% stiffness criterion for fatigue life evaluation is not a conservative approach. Uniaxial tests also revealed that, although in fatigue the FBMs were found to behave differently from HMA, in terms of permanent deformation, FBMs behave similarly to HMA in that a steady state strain rate was achieved.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Airey, G.D.
Thom, N.H.
Keywords: Foamed bitumen, Reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP), Recycling, Mechanical properties, Performance characteristics
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
Item ID: 28857
Depositing User: Kuna, Kranthi
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 10:50
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 21:53
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/28857

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