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Bitumen is a black adhesive compound manufactured from crude oil.

When hot, it is in liquid

form and when cold, it solidifies but retains some viscous and elastic properties enabling it to act
as a flexible binder. It comes in a range of grades denoted by the results from the penetration
test. In this test, a standard needle is pressed down into the bitumen for 20 seconds. The further
it penetrates (measured in tenths of a millimetre) the softer the material. Bitumen for roads falls
in the range 10 to 190.
Asphalt is the term used for all mixtures of aggregate and bitumen including Dense Bitumen
Macadam and Hot Rolled Asphalt. In the USA and literature emanating from there, it is known as
hot mix - the term asphalt is used for bitumen alone.
CBR - This is the abbreviation for California Bearing Ratio which is a test commonly used to
indicate the strength of the material below an asphalt road, runway, car park etc. It is the ability
of a material to resist an applied load compared to that of a standard granular material
expressed as a percentage. The smaller the CBR, the lower the strength of the material. A typical
soft clay may have a CBR value of 2%; a granular subbase may have a CBR of 200%. The CBR
varies according to the nature of the material itself but may also be affected by the amount of
water in the material.
The pavement is the structure built on the subgrade using layers of material as shown
below. This is not to be confused with the same word in common use that refers to a

footway or footpath.
Typical Layers of a Flexible Pavement:

Seal Coat - is a thin surface treatment used to water-proof the surface and to provide skid resistance.

Tack coat - is a very light application of asphalt, usually asphalt emulsion diluted with water. It provides
proper bonding between two layers of binder course and must be thin, uniformly cover the entire surface, and
set very fast. Applied on top of stabilized base layers and between lifts in thick asphalt concrete surface layers
to promote bonding of the layers.
Prime coat - is an application of low viscous cutback bitumen to an absorbent surface like granular bases
on which binder layer is placed. It provides bonding between two layers. Unlike tack coat, prime coat
penetrates into the layer below, plugs the voids, and forms a water tight surface. Applied on the untreated
aggregate base layer to minimize flow of asphalt cement from the asphalt concrete to the aggregate base and
to promote a good interface bond. Prime coats are often used to stabilize the surface of the base to support
the paving construction activities above. Cutback asphalt (asphalt cement blended with a petroleum solvent) is
typically used because of its greater depth penetration.
Surface course also called the wearing course - is the layer directly in contact with traffic loads and
generally contains superior quality materials. They are usually constructed with dense graded asphalt concrete
Binder course also called the asphalt base course - This layer provides the bulk of the asphalt
concrete structure. Its chief purpose is to distribute load to the base course. The binder course generally
consists of aggregates having less asphalt and doesn't require quality as high as the surface course, so
replacing a part of the surface course by the binder course results in more economical design.
Base course - is the layer of material immediately beneath the surface of binder course and it provides
additional load distribution and contributes to the sub-surface drainage. It may be composed of crushed stone,
crushed slag, and other untreated or stabilized materials.
sub-base course - is the layer of material beneath the base course and the primary functions are to provide
structural support, improve drainage, and reduce the intrusion of fines from the sub-grade in the pavement
structure If the base course is open graded, then the sub-base course with more fines can serve as a filler
between sub-grade and the base course A sub-base course is not always needed or used. For example, a
pavement constructed over a high quality, stiff sub-grade may not need the additional features offered by a
sub-base course. In such situations, sub-base course may not be provided.
Top soil or sub-grade - is a layer of natural soil prepared to receive the stresses from the layers above. It
is essential that at no time soil sub-grade is overstressed. It should be compacted to the desirable density, near
the optimum moisture content.
Components of a Pavement System
The pavement structure is a combination of subbase, base course, and surface course placed on a subgrade
to support the traffic load and distribute it to the roadbed.

The subgrade is the top surface of a roadbed upon which the pavement structure and shoulders are
constructed. The purpose of the subgrade is to provide a platform for construction of the pavement and to
support the pavement without undue deflection that would impact the pavement's performance. For pavements
constructed on-grade or in cuts, the subgrade is the natural in-situ soil at the site. The upper layer of this
natural soil may be compacted or stabilized to increase its strength, stiffness, and/or stability.
The subbase is a layer or layers of specified or selected materials of designed thickness placed on a subgrade
to support a base course. The subbase layer is usually of somewhat lower quality than the base layer. In some
cases, the subbase may be treated with Portland cement, asphalt, lime, flyash, or combinations of these
admixtures to increase its strength and stiffness. A subbase layer is not always included, especially with rigid
pavements. A subbase layer is typically included when the subgrade soils are of very poor quality and/or
suitable material for the base layer is not available locally, and is, therefore, expensive. Inclusion of a subbase
layer is primarily an economic issue, and alternative pavement sections with and without a subbase layer
should be evaluated during the design process.

Alternate Types of Pavement

The most common way of categorizing pavements is by structural type: rigid, flexible, composite and

Rigid pavements in simplest terms are those with a surface course of Portland cement concrete (PCC).
The Portland cement concrete slabs constitute the dominant load-carrying component in a rigid pavement

Flexible pavements, in contrast, have an asphaltic surface layer, with no underlying Portland cement
slabs. The asphaltic surface layer may consist of high quality, hot mix asphalt concrete, or it may be some type
of lower strength and stiffness asphaltic surface treatment. In either case, flexible pavements rely heavily on
the strength and stiffness of the underlying unbound layers to supplement the load carrying capacity of the
asphaltic surface layer.

Composite pavements combine elements of both flexible and rigid pavement systems, usually
consisting of an asphaltic concrete surface placed over PCC or bound base.

Unpaved roads or naturally surfaced roads simply are not paved, relying on granular layers and the
subgrade to carry the load. Seal coats are sometimes applied to improve their resistance to environmental
Emulsified asphalt is a suspension of asphalt in water by using an emulsifying agent which
imposes an electric charge on asphalt particles so that they will join and cement together.
Cutback asphalt is simply asphalt dissolved in petroleum. The purpose of adding emulsifying
agent in water or petroleum is to reduce viscosity of asphalt in low temperatures.

Asphalt pavement refers to any paved road surfaced with asphalt. Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) is a
combination of approximately 95% stone, sand, or gravel bound together by asphalt cement, a product of
crude oil. Asphalt cement is heated aggregate, combined, and mixed with the aggregate at an HMA facility.