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An Examination of Operator Variability for Selected Methods for Measuring Bulk Specific Gravity of HotMix Asphalt Concrete

Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., P.E. Frances T. Griffith Stacy G. Williams

Transportation Research Board 80th Annual Meeting January 7-11, 2001 Washington, D.C.

In direct comparison with the SSD method. using hot-mix asphalt concrete sampled from six projects in Arkansas. including SSD (as per AASHTO T-166). and vacuum sealing (using the Corelok vacuum sealing device). Stacy G. In almost all cases. .An Examination of Operator Variability for Selected Methods for Measuring Bulk Specific Gravity of Hot-Mix Asphalt Concrete Kevin D. Three methods were used to determine the bulk specific gravity of compacted HMAC samples. further. However. An analysis of the variability between operators was investigated using a total of almost 1300 test results. based on the standard deviation of test results obtained by different operators. By conducting trials in triplicate for each of three different testing methods. The Corelok method exhibited a lower degree of variability than the other two methods used. Gmb values determined using the height/diameter method were statistically different from those determined using the SSD and Corelok methods. the Corelok exhibited a lower variability (standard deviation) in 81 percent of the cases. a measurement of the bulk specific gravity (Gmb) of compacted Hot Mix Asphalt Cement (HMAC) cores was obtained. Overall. Griffith. agencies seeking to use the Corelok must consider the effect of an apparent shift in Gmb values obtained on resulting HMAC volumetric and compaction properties. statistical differences were noted in paired analyses between the SSD and Corelok methods. height / diameter (as per AASHTO T-269). Frances T. Hall. Williams ABSTRACT The ability of different operators to obtain similar results when performing laboratory tests on the same material is vital for producing accurate testing results. the Corelok method appears to offer a viable alternative for determining the bulk specific gravity of compacted hot-mix asphalt concrete.

An Examination of Operator Variability for Selected Methods for Measuring Bulk Specific Gravity of Hot-Mix Asphalt Concrete Kevin D. Griffith. more or less water may drain from the core when trying to obtain the SSD weight. the SSD. because of its potential variability. This suggests that the SSD method. will result in air-void and voids-in-mineral aggregate (VMA) values that are variable and potentially inaccurate. By conducting trials in triplicate. a mix designer must use a measurement of the bulk specific gravity (Gmb) of compacted asphalt cores. and following the same procedures. commonly known as the Saturated Surface Dry (SSD) method. Superpave design encourages the use of coarse mixes. There have been many different methods developed for determining the Gmb of compacted cores. Also. dimensional analysis (height / diameter). Of the available methods. may not be the most consistent method for determining Gmb. This problem seems to be related to interconnected voids that are present in the core. These Gmb values. which can have a very open graded aggregate structure. when used in volumetric calculations. Williams INTRODUCTION When calculating the volumetric properties for hot-mix asphalt concrete (HMAC). A drawback of the SSD method is the tendency for different operators to obtain results that are dissimilar when performing testing on the same materials. The method currently used for measuring the Gmb is AASHTO Method T166 (1). Frances T. From these . using the same equipment. the variability of the Gmb of compacted HMAC cores can be estimated for each of three different testing methods. Hall. and Corelok methods will be tested and reviewed with a focus on the newly developed Corelok Sealing system. Water may infiltrate differently into the submerged core when replicate testing is performed. Stacy G.

mix was sampled from two sublots chosen at random. and Little Rock were the six sites from which asphalt mix was collected.Hall. and optimum asphalt content varied according to job specifications. Black Rock. PROJECT OBJECTIVES The first objective of the study is to verify that results obtained during the testing phase are similar to other work reported concerning a comparison of the different testing methods. Because the Corelok is a fairly new product. All mixes featured a nominal maximum aggregate size of 12. aggregates. At the lab the mix was reheated following guidelines recommended by the Asphalt Institute. On each of the two days. there are few resources available which document its abilities. Harrison.5 mm. A good testing method should be repeatable under standard laboratory conditions. The mix sampled at the jobsite was brought back to the lab for compaction and testing. Griffith. Samples for testing came from six different job sites located within the state of Arkansas. Six cores were compacted to represent each of the four stations chosen at each job site. A second objective is to document multi-operator (within lab) variability for the various methods. and were approved for use as a surface course by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD). a comparison of the different testing methods and an analysis of variability between operators can be conducted. Russellville. Mix design (compactive effort). Prescott. and for various operators. Mix from . Texarkana-Shreveport. TESTING PROGRAM Sampling / Specimen Preparation A total of 144 compacted asphalt samples were subjected to testing. and Williams 2 measurements. The HMAC was collected on two separate days from each of the six job locations.

Harrison and Prescott.Hall. For each core. and vacuum sealing using the Instrotek™ Corelok Vacuum Seal (Figure 1). Each testing operator was instructed on correct testing procedure to ensure that all operators used the same testing methods. Gmb = __ mass (g) of dry specimen_____ ssd mass (g) – submerged mass(g) Equation 2 The final Gmb measurements were performed using the vacuum sealing method. with the remaining mix being compacted to Ndesign. height and diameter were each measured four times and averaged. dimensional analysis (AASHTO T-269) (2). Based on the Gmb values obtained during the testing phase of the project.5 percent. Gmb = _____mass (g) of dry specimen (1/4) π dia(cm)2 height(cm) Equation 1 The bulk specific gravity of compacted cores was determined using saturated surface-dry procedures in accordance with AASHTO T-166. were compacted to Nmax. the calculation is shown in Equation 2. Table 1 summarizes the mixes used in the study. Specimens were measured using an digital caliper. air voids in the test specimens ranged from approximately 2. The bulk specific gravity of each core was calculated using equation 1. Dimensional analysis followed the procedure detailed in AASHTO T-269. Saturated Surface-Dry Specimens (AASHTO T-166). and Williams 3 two of the job sites. The Corelok system is designed to seal a specimen so that water does not penetrate into surface voids . and on maximum specific gravity values determined using AASHTO T-209.5 percent to approximately 9. Test Methods Three different testing methods were employed. Griffith.

The mass of the sealed core was determined. Ultimately. rather than single-operator. However. differences in Gmb values obtained for each core using each test method are compared. No single operator performed replicate tests on a given core. not on the average values. A dry (unsealed) mass was measured for each core. and Williams 4 when the specimen is submerged. repeatability. Next. Thus the measure of operator variability analyzed and discussed here relates to multi-operator. For brevity. The core was then vacuum-sealed in a bag specifically designed by the manufacturer (density of the bag is known). and the submerged mass was recorded after the scale had stabilized. Testing Program Nine operators were involved in sample testing.Hall. Two analyses are presented. Buchanan (3) provides a comprehensive description of the Corelok testing process. each core was tested three times using each procedure – one test each. the variability of each test method is compared by scrutinizing the variability of test results obtained by different operators. A summary of the process is given here. both operators and cores were assigned randomly to generate test results. The sealing process takes approximately two minutes. TEST RESULTS Table 2 summarizes the results of the testing effort. the values in Table 2 represent only the average and associated standard deviation of the eighteen test results obtained for each station of each project. . It is noted that cores were dried to a constant mass after each SSD test was performed. First. The core was submerged. For each test procedure. the statistical analyses reported here are based on the total number of individual test results. The bulk specific gravity was determined using equation 2. Griffith. by each of the three chosen operators. with corrections being made for the bag that sealed the specimen.

Results indicated that the Corelok method exhibited the lowest variability of the three methods. This test analyzes the difference in values obtained using two different treatments.Hall. when . Griffith. Gmb values obtained using these two methods were compared using a paired-t test. A cursory comparison of these values would seem to indicate the height/diameter method to be the least variable among operators. Statistically significant differences in Gmb values (SSD versus Corelok) are indicated in all cases. Duncan’s Multiple Range Test was used to determine which methods were responsible for the difference. differences were indicated in 71 percent of cases comparing only the SSD and Corelok methods. A second analysis was performed using only the results obtained from the Corelok and SSD testing methods. It is emphasized that Table 2 shows the mean of the standard deviations calculated for results representing each station on each project.05) was used in all cases. If there was a significant effect.05). analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine if the effect of test method was significant with respect to Gmb. and Williams 5 Comparison of Gmb Results Two analyses are used to compare Gmb values obtained using different test procedures. First. In addition. The outcome of this analysis confirms the results of similar testing reported by Buchanan (3). Operator Variability In the next analysis. standard deviations were used to evaluate multi-operator variability. Table 3 shows the results of the Duncan Test. Statistical differences occurred in 83 percent of the comparisons between Gmb values obtained by the three testing methods. A level of significance of 5 percent (alpha = 0. However. again confirming Buchanan’s results (in which 68 percent of uncut cores exhibited differences). at a level of significance of 5 percent (alpha = 0. Table 4 shows a summary of the results from the paired-t test.

the Gmb values determined using the “preferable” method should be similar to those SSD-based values. However. the Corelok exhibited a lower variability in 82 percent of the 144 cores. Griffith. the relative accuracy of the Gmb values must also be considered. Therefore. Many performance-related construction specifications have been developed based on volumetric properties (air voids. VFA) calculated using Gmb values obtained using the SSD test. and Williams 6 comparing multi-operator variability values for each of the 144 cores tested. repeatability. It is noted that the height/diameter method exhibited the lowest standard deviation in 43 percent of the 144 cores. Gmb values determined using the height/diameter method should be more consistent compared to SSD-based values. VMA. If one considers variability only.Hall. It is only recently. Bulk specific gravity values obtained using the SSD method have been the accepted standard or true values for years. that the SSD method has been criticized. Relative Accuracy of Gmb Results The testing variability data suggest that. with the SSD method showing the lowest variability in only 3 percent of the cores. the Corelok method exhibited the lowest standard deviation in 54 percent of the comparisons. this might recommend the height/diameter method to be preferable to the SSD method. It is difficult to assess “accuracy” when considering HMAC bulk specific gravity – there is no accepted “true” value with which to compare. and reproducibility – but should also . if a test for determining bulk specific gravity is deemed preferable to the SSD method. with the advent of relatively coarse-graded Superpave mixes and stone-matrix asphalt (SMA) mixes. after the Corelok method. If one considers a comparison between SSD-based and Corelok-based values only. The criteria for choosing another test should be weighted on considerations such as testing variability.

Table 5 summarizes the differences calculated in Air Voids and VMA resulting from the use of an SSD-based versus a Corelok-based Gmb value. Griffith. Note that a comparison between volumetric properties obtained using the height/diameter method and either the SSD or Corelok method would result in changes to air voids and VMA of a greater magnitude than those shown in Table 5. A new testing method might force a change in materials. From a construction specification perspective these reported differences in air voids and VMA are significant – yet nothing physically changed in the mix.Hall. The graph shown in Figure 2 is typical of all sites.36 to 0. construction. Table 3 also illustrates these points. a difference in air voids is obtained that ranges from 0.79 percent.31 to 0. It is demonstrated that simply by changing the method of measuring Gmb. Values for air voids and VMA were calculated using a given mixture’s maximum specific gravity (Gmm) and aggregate bulk specific gravity (Gsb) measured in the field. and Williams 7 consider the effects on current understanding of mixture behavior if the replacement test gives significantly different values from SSD-based values. Bulk specific gravity values representing the SSD and Corelok methods are somewhat similar. and/or performance specifications. .9 percent. a difference in VMA is obtained that ranges from 0. only the methods by which the voids were determined changed. Figure 2 is a plot of the Gmb values determined using all three test methods for the 24 cores obtained from one of the project sites. This type of analysis must be considered by any agency seeking to adopt new testing methods. while Gmb values representing the height/diameter method are visibly different. A question arises concerning the relative effect of the differences obtained in Gmb results on HMAC mixture volumetric properties.

The Corelok system appears to offer a viable alternative – Gmb results in some cases are similar to those obtained by SSD. Specifically. it may prove necessary to reevaluate such QA/QC specifications prior to adoption of the Corelok method. 1. The SSD-based HMAC bulk specific gravity test is undergoing intense scrutiny. in most cases the height/diameter method yielded a value that was significantly different from the SSD-based method and the Corelok-based method. the Corelok method has the smallest multi-operator variability. the following conclusions are offered relative to Gmb testing methods.Hall. Of the three testing methods used. Griffith. as defined by a standard deviation of test results. 2. The SSD method exhibited the highest variability (standard deviation) of the three methods. Implementation of such a test would have a reduced impact (compared to height/diameter methods) on current construction QA/QC specifications that are based on Gmb values obtained from SSD-based tests. It is recommended that the Corelok HMAC bulk specific gravity test be further refined through round-robin and ruggedness testing for eventual adoption as the standard test method for coarse/open –graded mixes. and testing variability between operators is reduced in all cases. particularly for mixes with relatively coarse gradations. Corelok-based and SSD-based values were also statistically different in many cases. There are significant differences between Gmb values determined using the three methods evaluated in this study for obtaining the specific gravity of a compacted core. Another alternative could involve developing a correlation between Corelok-based and SSD-based values for HMAC bulk gravity. and Williams 8 CONCLUSIONS Based on the results of testing and analyses described. However. .

March 2000. Shane. 1998. This paper does not constitute a standard. specification. AASHTO Designation: T 166. M. Federal Highway Administration. The contents of this paper reflect the views of the authors who are responsible for the facts and accuracy of the data presented herein. AASHTO Designation: T 269. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.S. Journal of the Association of Asphalt Paving Technologists.Hall. This paper should not be considered an endorsement of any commercial product or service. 3. Department of Transportation. sponsored by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. Standard Method of Test for Percent Air Voids in Compacted Dense and Open Bituminous Paving Mixtures. Standard Specification for Bulk Specific Gravity of Compacted Bituminous Mixtures Using Saturated Surface-Dry Specimens. Vol. Buchanan. 2. Reno. Nevada. 1998. 69. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Federal Highway Administration or the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. 19th Edition. and Williams 9 ACKNOWLEDGMENT This paper is based on research project TRC-0001. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. . An Evaluation of Selected Methods for Measuring the Bulk Specific Gravity of Compacted Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) Mixes. or regulation. REFERENCES 1. Griffith. “Development of Quality Control Procedures for Hot-Mix Asphalt”. and the U. 19th Edition.

and Williams 10 TABLE 1 Summary of Mix Information Location Aggregate Type Binder Grade PG 70-22 Compaction Station # of Cores 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 Tex-Shreveport River Gravel Ndesign (100) 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 Little Rock Sandstone PG 64-22 Ndesign (75) Russellville Sandstone PG 70-22 Ndesign (75) Prescott Pit Gravel/River Gravel PG 64-22 Nmax (169) Black Rock Limestone/River Gravel PG 64-22 Ndesign (100) Harrison Limestone/Gravel PG 64-22 Nmax (129) . Griffith.Hall.

0029 0.337 2.0077 0.0033 0.0034 0.0019 0.0046 0.0027 0.251 2.0078 0.311 2.0075 TEX-SHREVEPORT LITTLE ROCK RUSSELLVILLE PRESCOTT BLACK ROCK HARRISON 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 2.0179 0.359 2.0027 0.0010 0.0072 0.0051 0.349 2.0042 0.0024 0.327 2.0020 0.311 2.0077 0.271 2.0062 0.326 .348 2.346 2.306 2.294 2.0034 0.0023 0.379 2.337 0.0083 0.281 2.230 2.Hall.0077 0.0024 0.374 2.300 2.290 2.309 2.353 2.291 2.302 0.300 2.0021 0.357 2.0037 0.0019 0.337 2.0015 0.282 2.298 2.0128 0.345 2.268 2.0099 0.247 2.0017 0.0040 0.0018 0.256 2.384 2.298 2.0012 0.0040 0.0024 0.0027 0.0046 0.208 2.364 2.0013 0.312 2.330 2.0056 0.299 2.0045 0.0053 0.0092 0.298 2. Griffith.0075 0.0011 0.418 2.356 2.243 2.0028 0.0049 0.0045 0.0018 0.0111 0.330 2.336 2.0043 0.339 2.0101 0.0029 0.348 2.0021 0.0033 0.0033 0.302 2.0076 0.0026 0.372 2.193 2.334 2.352 2. and Williams 11 TABLE 2 Average Gmb and Associated Standard Deviation for All Test Methods JOB STATION HEIGHT/DIAMETER Ave Gmb Ave Standard Deviation 2.0027 Ave Gmb SSD Ave Standard Deviation 0.300 2.0109 0.335 2.300 2.248 2.0021 0.0065 0.0024 0.0055 CORELOK Ave Gmb Ave Standard Deviation 2.379 2.0105 0.343 2.0112 0.334 2.347 2.0011 0.0033 0.352 2.374 2.335 2.408 2.0077 0.0020 0.310 2.351 2.0025 0.271 2.313 2.354 2.249 2.0033 0.303 2.

70 A B 2 3.22 A A Little Rock 1 3.93 A B 3 25.97 A B 4 3. Griffith.88 A B 2 28.75 A B 2 37.Hall.62 A A 4 8.52 A B 3 9.63 A B 3 59.52 A AB 3 2.11.53 A A Harrison 1 12.80 A B Prescott 1 74.00 A B 3 32.15 A B 4 1.10 A B 3 19. Fcritical = 3.64 A B 4 1. and Williams 12 TABLE 3 Summary of ANOVA Resultsa for Gmb Values (All Methods) Height Corelok Diameter A B Tex-Shreveport 1 26.29 A B 4 8. b Marginal Value Location Station Fcalc SSD C B B A B C C B B B A B C C B B C C B A B B B A .69 A B Russellville 1 3.76 A B 2 36.06 A B 4 1.02b A AB 2 14.55 A A a Analysis conducted at a level of 5 percent.38 A B Black Rock 1 32.66 2 43.

064 2.126 12. Deviation of Difference 0.016 0.136 8.0049 0.064 2.064 2.0088 0.861 Critical t 2.019 0. and Williams 13 TABLE 4 Summary of Paired-t Analysis – SSD and Corelok Methods Location BLA HAR LIT PRE RUS TEX Average Difference (SSD – Corelok) 0.061 9.Hall.064 .064 2.064 2.011 0.012 Std.0046 Calculated t 12.0051 0.022 0. Griffith.0064 0.008 0.483 8.096 16.0099 0.

71 0.6 5. and Williams 14 TABLE 5 Effect of Gmb Test Method on HMAC Volumetric Properties Location Binder Content (%) 5.580 2.44 0.470 Aggregate Bulk Gravity (Gsb) 2.60 0.552 2.570 Difference in Air Voidsa (%) 0.45 BLA HAR LIT PRE RUS TEX a difference calculated using SSD-based Gmb value versus Corelok-based Gmb value .3 5.5 6.90 0.70 0.36 0.2 Max.367 2.40 0.420 2.31 0. Specific Gravity (Gmm) 2.5 5.79 0.516 2.398 2.575 2.653 2.463 2.430 2.50 Difference in VMAa (%) 0.Hall.1 5. Griffith.80 0.

Griffith. and Williams 15 FIGURE 1 Introtek™ Corelok Vacuum Sealing Device .Hall.

Prescott HEIGHT DIAMETER 2. and Williams 16 FIGURE 2 Summary of Gmb Values for Each Testing Method .380 2.340 2.320 2.260 2.360 Bulk Specific Gravity 2.280 2. Griffith.Hall.300 2.240 CORELOK SSD .

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