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Development of an IDEAL Cracking Test for Asphalt Mix Design and QC/QA

Fujie Zhou, Soohyok Im, Lijun Sun, Tom Scullion


The focus in recent years has been to make asphalt mixes more affordable, and this has led to the increased use of recycled materials and binder modifications. Consequently, one often-heard complaint is that the recent mixes are more susceptible to cracking. There is an urgent need for a practical cracking test for routine use in the process of mix design, quality control, and quality assurance testing. This paper develops an indirect tensile asphalt cracking test (IDEAL-CT). The IDEAL-CT is typically run at room temperature with 150-mm diameter and 62-mm high cylindrical specimens with a loading rate of 50 mm/min. The IDEAL-CT is a simple (no instrumentation, cutting, gluing, drilling, or notching of specimens), practical (minimum training needed for routine operation), and efficient test (test completion less than one minute). The test can be performed with regular indirect tensile strength test equipment. As described in this paper, the IDEAL-CT is sensitive to key asphalt mix components and volumetric properties including reclaimed asphalt pavement and recycled asphalt shingles content, asphalt binder type, binder content, aging conditions, and air voids. The proposed test also has a much lower coefficient of variation than traditional repeated load cracking tests. Furthermore, the IDEAL-CT results were compared with field cracking data collected from the Federal Highway Administration’s accelerated load facility, Texas SH15 and SH62, and MnROAD. The IDEAL-CT characterization correlated well with field performance in terms of fatigue, reflective, and thermal cracking. Last but not the least, the ruggedness test performed in this study indicated that the IDEAL-CT, after combining both statistical and practical views, could be considered as rugged with all four variables: specimen thickness, loading rate, test temperature, and air voids.

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