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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Development of Performance-Based Specifications for Asphalt Rubber Binder: Interim Report on Phase 1 and Phase 2 Testing

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In the United States, the Superpave Asphalt Binder Performance Grading (PG) system proposed by the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) is the most common method used to characterize the performance-related properties of unmodified and polymer-modified asphalt binders. Dynamic shear modulus (G*) and phase angle (δ) are the two main binder properties and they are measured using a dynamic shear rheometer (DSR) with parallel plate geometry and either a 1-mm or 2-mm gap between the plates. Since these Superpave parameters were developed for binders that do not contain additives or particulates, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) does not use them for asphalt rubber binder specifications. Instead, penetration and viscosity are used as acceptance of quality control; however, these parameters do not necessarily provide a satisfactory link between the measured binder properties and potential performance in the field over a range of operating temperatures. In California, current specifications require that crumb rubber particles used to produce asphalt rubber binder in the “wet process” must be smaller than 2.36 mm (i.e., 100 percent passing the #8 sieve), and typically these particles vary in size between 1 mm and 2 mm. Consequently, when the parallel plate geometry is used to test this type of binder, the larger incompletely digested rubber particles can contact the plates. If this occurs, the rubber particle rheology can potentially dominate the results, which in turn may not be representative of the modified binder as a whole. To address this problem, a potentially more appropriate DSR testing protocol using concentric cylinder geometry was investigated in Phase 1 of this study to explore an alternative means of determining the performance properties of asphalt rubber binders. Phase 2 of the study, documented in this report, continued the investigation into the use of the concentric cylinder geometry and alternate parallel plate geometry with a 3-mm gap. The use of these geometries for intermediate-temperature testing and multiple stress creep recovery testing was also investigated, along with modified procedures for short- and long-term aging in the rolling thin-film oven and pressurized aging vessel, respectively, and specimen preparation procedures for bending beam rheometer (BBR) testing. Limited mix testing was also conducted to relate high- and low-temperature mix performance to the performance grades determined for the binders used in the mixes. The concentric cylinder testing approach to measuring the rheological properties of asphalt rubber binders is considered feasible, and that with its use, the edge effects and trimming issues associated with parallel plate testing can be eliminated. However, the concentric cylinder method requires a longer testing time and a larger binder sample than the parallel plate test method. Initial findings from performance grading and related mix testing indicate that the incompletely digested rubber particles, which have different sensitivities to temperature and applied stress and strain than the asphalt binder, appear to dominate the test results. This will need to be factored into analyses and interpretation of rheology and mix performance test results. The proposed modifications to the short- and long-term aging procedures and to the BBR specimen preparation procedures are considered to be more aligned with the original intent of the tests and will likely reduce the variability between replicate specimens during testing. The results from Phase 2 support the continuation of testing, which should be in line with the original workplan and objectives of this research effort. The research should continue to refine the testing procedures on additional field binder sources, assess the repeatability and reproducibility of any proposed test methods, and evaluate the applicability of the results to the actual performance properties of mixes produced with asphalt rubber binders.

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