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Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673

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Mesostructural damage simulation of asphalt mixture using microscopic

interface contact models
Zejiao Dong a, Xiangbing Gong a,, Lidong Zhao b, Lei Zhang a
School of Transportation Science and Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150090, PR China
Room 531 in Research Institute of Highway Ministry of Transport, No. 8 of Xitucheng Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100088, PR China

h i g h l i g h t s

 Contact interface properties were estimated via uniaxial tension experiment.

 Macro evaluation index could not characterize properties difference in meso-scale.
 Results show mesostructural parameters have a big impact on damage characteristic.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Mesostructure and contact interface properties are important for material design and performance
Received 15 May 2013 assessment of asphalt mixtures, which is sensitive to the crack. Conventional asphalt mixture design
Received in revised form 26 November 2013 method always ignores the fact that mesostructure and interface signicantly inuence the performance
Accepted 28 November 2013
of pavement. To evaluate these factors, rstly the properties of contacting interface between asphalt and
Available online 14 January 2014
aggregate were achieved through uniaxial tension test. Then numerical cohesive zone model (CZM) was
utilized to estimate the crack resistance of the interface based on laboratory damage parameters. Finally,
mesostructural damage simulation of asphalt mortar was conducted to unfold the entire cracking distri-
bution, which included the contact interface properties. The results show that mesostructural parameters
Uniaxial tension and interface properties have an important impact on damage characteristics. However, these factors are
Digital image processing not comprehensively understood in current hot mixture asphalt design method.
Finite element method 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction different components of asphalt mixture in multi-scales. More-

over, meso-scale dened as a middle scale is applied to establish
In engineering, multi-scale is the realm of resolving physical the bridges among multiple scales. Mesostructural composition
and mechanical problems which have important features in contains aggregates, asphalt or asphalt mortar and voids [46],
multiple scales, especially multiple spatial and structural scales. and these components have a signicant impact on the perfor-
Referring to asphalt material and asphalt pavement structure, mance and strength of mixtures in infrastructure and pavements.
scales could be divided into four parts (shown in Fig. 1), they are In meso-scale, aggregates shape and their distribution are known
nano-scale, micro-scale, meso-scale, and macro-scale [1]. to affect shear strength [7] which is related with stone-on-stone
Multiscale phenomenon of asphalt mixes [2] known as con- contact [8] and interlocking conditions [9]. The initial compaction
ventional pavement construction materials is an important aspect and subsequent performance [10,11] are inuenced by particles
in studying the constitutive equations, mechanical behavior, shape in meso-scale. Asphalt mortar distributions, air voids inu-
shear strength, performance and maintenance strategies of ence the skid resistance [12] and hydraulic conductivity [13] of
asphalt pavement materials. Both experiments of pavement asphalt pavements. The relative researching methods about
material properties and pavement structure design method are mesostructural components of asphalt have ranged from X-ray
mainly focused on macroscopic characteristics of asphalt mix- computer tomography cooperated with mathematical description
tures based on the phenomenal observation [3], which contrib- [14], digital image processing technique [15]. Additionally,
utes to several difculties in obtaining the internal relationship researchers always utilize extended nite element method
between macroscopic parameters and actual responses of (XFEM) [16] and discrete element modeling (DEM) [17] to focus
on mesoscopic responses. Besides, damage simulation and predic-
Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 13613653967; fax: +86 45186283090. tion are useful, especially accounting for microscopic and meso-
E-mail addresses: (Z. Dong), (X. Gong),
structural composition of asphalt mixes [18], as well as the (L. Zhao), (L. Zhang). internal interface contact properties and evaluation [1921].

0950-0618/$ - see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
666 Z. Dong et al. / Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673

Fig. 1. Different scales in multi-scale for asphalt material and pavement structure.

All above studies show that asphalt mixture is dened as a kind mortar), which is given onto the top surface of a cylinder specimen
(h100 mm  100 mm) at 20 C, material test equipment records deformation
of composites, which exhibits different outputs undergoing exter-
and loading curves. After the remove of instant elastic strain according to straight
nal or internal stimulation in various scales. However, most of the line of loaddisplacement curve, the creep curve can be obtained. In this part,
specications and pavement construction guides have focused on observation and analysis are conducted based on experimental results of asphalt
macroscopic circumstance without considerations about other mortar specimens, shown in Figs. 3 and 4.
smaller scales. There is a big challenge to totally contain micro- The asphalt mortar of Mix B shows a strongest compressive strength, followed
by Mix A and Mix C. Although in the value distribution of creep curves, asphalt mor-
scopic and mesoscopic characteristics for current asphalt mixture
tar of Mix B is larger than Mix A, and it is obvious that the changing rate of Mix B
design method, and macroscopic indexes are difcult to evaluate presents a stablest variation, which positively affect the long-term deformation
material feature in other tinier scales. The methodologies of this resistance. A conclusion about a strongest asphalt mortar of Mix B is easily con-
paper took digital image processing technique, nite element anal- cluded based on these macroscopic experiments. However, it would be several dif-
ferent results existing in mesostructural parameters, which could be discussed in
ysis, and uniaxial tension of a single particle into consideration.
next part.
Firstly, the numerical models of three kinds of similar asphalt mix-
tures in macro composition were implemented, then aggregate
shape indexes were obtain from blackwhite images of asphalt 3. Methodologies
mixes section. Then, accounting for an accurate measurement of
contacting interface with aggregate shapes inuence, uniaxial ten- 3.1. Digital image processing technique
sion equipment was developed to achieve some damage parame-
ters for numerical models. Finally, computational simulations 3.1.1. Brief introduction
were conducted to nd different mechanical responses between Based on computational algorithms, digital image processing
diverse asphalt mix models. The main objective of this study was techniques are used to perform image processing on digital images,
to prove that macroscopic asphalt mixture design method could which are developed in the 1960s [24]. This technique has many
be fail to distinguish the mesostructural differences, especially in advantages in dealing with two-dimensional even multidimen-
damage simulation utilizing macro indexes. The second objective sional systems, such as the compatibility with wider range of algo-
was to compare the diversities to do precise assessment for meso- rithms and avoiding issues about noise and signal distortion during
structural parameters and microscopic indexes in damage situa- processing. In particular, digital image processing method is a use-
tion, and this paper was preliminary to summary the inuence of ful and necessary tool to resolve many cutting-edge problems in
mesoscopic characteristics on asphalt mixture damage. terms of classication, feature extraction, multi-scale medium
2. Materials
3.1.2. Mesostructural parameters illustration
2.1. Material elastic parameters
In asphalt mixtures, macroscopic information is convenient to
Three kinds of asphalt mixes are named as Mix A, Mix B and Mix C (gradation be obtained through experiments and theories, but asphalt mixes
curves shown in Fig. 2). According to the multi-scale classication (shown in are typical isotropic and inhomogeneous. Consequently, illustra-
Fig. 1), in meso-scale asphalt mixture is divided into two main components (aggre- tion of mesostructural parameters is an important part in this pa-
gates are bigger than 2.36 mm and asphalt mortar consists of asphalt binder and
per. Several colorful section pictures of asphalt mixtures are
other smaller aggregates). NMAS (Nominal Maximum Aggregate Size), OAC (Opti-
mal Asphalt Content), types of asphalt mixtures are determined by Marshall Design processed based on digital image processing method. Firstly, col-
Method. Material parameters in elastic realm of two main components are impor- orful pictures are converted into 8 bit gray-scale images, and then
tant for numerical simulation. The material properties of coarse aggregate are histogram equalization is utilized to balance the distribution of
adopted through rock experiments. Elastic parameters of asphalt mortar are ob-
gray level. Thirdly, background and impulsive noises are de-
tained by the static resilient modulus experiment. It keeps the same ller-bitumen
ratio with macroscopic asphalt mixtures. In the specication of Application Hand-
creased or eliminated via median ltering instead of mean lter-
book of Standard Test Methods of Bitumen and Bituminous Mixture, static resilient ing. Finally, gray-scale images are converted into blackwhite
modulus experiment [22] is applied to calculate the resilient modulus which is images after mathematical morphology process which could
equivalent to the elastic modulus of asphalt mixture. The resilient displacement make aggregate a single one out from the attached pairs. Black
of cylinder specimens is measured from material test equipment (MTS-810) with
white images of coarse aggregates and asphalt mortar are shown
seven-level stress load, and static resilient modulus can be achieved through data
process. The value of Poissons ratio [23] of asphalt mixture and mortar is referred in Fig. 5.
based on one related study. Experimental results are shown in Table 1. Coarse aggregates mesostructural parameters present a crucial
impact on asphalt mixture performance, such as shape and angu-
2.2. Static creep test larity provide interlocking strength, texture can inuence inter-
face bonding capacity, which is presented in Fig. 6. Digital
Known as the viscoelastic compounds, asphalt mixture is sensitive to the load-
ing rate and temperature. Static creep test is treated as a key tool in asphalt mixture
image processing software can measure and determine the mes-
design, it is used to assess and predict long-time performance of deformation resis- oscopic parameters based on these blackwhite images. In this
tance. A static pressure is equal to 0.2P (P means compressive strength of asphalt part, ratio of the minor axis length to the majors (using AR
Z. Dong et al. / Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673 667

Fig. 2. Gradation curves with Taylor coordinate (x axis is equal to the power of 0.45 for the size).

Table 1
Material parameters of asphalt mixtures (20 C).

Name NMAS (mm) Type Mixture Aggregate Asphalt mortar

OAC (%) E (MPa)a la E (GPa)a la OAC (%) E (MPa) l
Mix A 26.5 ACa 4.4 1984.4 0.27 11.0 360.6 0.32
Mix B 31.5 ACa 4.0 2006.2 0.25 60.0 0.15 9.9 400.5 0.30
Mix C 26.5 ATBa 3.6 2001.3 0.27 13.4 275.7 0.35
E means elastic modulus, l means Passions ratio, AC represents asphalt concrete and ATB represents asphalt treated base.

Every aggregate in two dimensional domain exists a minimum

area of enclosing rectangle, the length and width are its major axis
and minor axis. AR is the ratio of width to length, which illustrates
shape feature such as elongated and aky particles. The larger this
value, the better the outline of coarse aggregates, however when
the AR is smaller than 0.3 that means this aggregate is an elongated
one. In Fig. 7, the coarse aggregates of Mix C have a better outline
than others, followed by Mix A and Mix B.
SIPC is the ratio of actual perimeter to equivalent perimeter
which is calculated keeping circle area the same with the coarse
aggregate. This index exhibits outline characteristic of a single
aggregate such as angularity. SIPC is more approximate to one,
the smoother sketch of coarse aggregate. Complicated and polygo-
nal outline matches the requirements of aggregates controlled in
real projects, which can provide a strong inner structure to resist
Fig. 3. Static creep curves of asphalt mortars. deformation and skidding. Fig. 8 suggests that Mix A has the best
quality of coarse aggregates with a better outline, followed by
Mix B and Mix C.
From the above analysis, there are signicant differences be-
tween mesostructure and macroscopic gradations of these asphalt
mixtures. The coarsest Mix C shows a best quality of coarse aggre-
gates and a worst quality of asphalt mortar. However, Mix B exhib-
its a worst quality of coarse aggregates and a strongest property of
asphalt mortar. Mix A shows a stable property of coarse aggregates
and asphalt mortar with a nest gradation.

3.2. Numerical damage simulation in meso-scale

3.2.1. Cohesive zone model

Damage and fracture can occur at interface of composite mate-
rial such as asphalt-aggregate bonding interface, a method like
Fig. 4. Compressive strength of asphalt mortars. continuum damage mechanic is hard to determine these condi-
tions. Combined nite elements method with cohesive laws, a
technique to simulate crack initiation and crack growth called
represents this ratio) and shape index of equal perimeter (using cohesive zone model (CZM). The rst applications of cohesive zone
SIPC represents this value) [25] are obtained. Curves are shown models are the works of Dugdale [26] and Barenblatt [27]. Based
in Figs. 7 and 8. on nonlinear fracture mechanic and energy methods, CZM can
668 Z. Dong et al. / Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673

(a) MixA (b) MixA (c) MixC

Fig. 5. Blackwhite images of two main components.

complement the damage and fracture simulation of two micro-

scopic interface. The description of the failure behavior is dened
by traction-separation laws, these relations illustrate the traction
as a function of separation displacement (shown in Eq. (1)) and ob-
tain constitutive responses of CZM. At tips of cracking zone, the
traction rst increases until a maximum is reached, and until the
traction force decreases to zero. Some factors play an important
role in resulting fracture behavior, traction energy which is equal
to area under the traction separation curve (shown in Eq. (2))
and initial stiffness of cohesive zone model have a close relation-
ship with the accuracy of simulation. In this study, bilinear laws
and measurement of initial crack energy were adopted into nite
element method (shown in Fig. 9).

Fig. 6. Mesostructural parameters of coarse aggregate.

r f d 1

Fig. 7. Ratio of major to minor axis length in an ascending order.

Fig. 8. Shape index of equal perimeter in an ascending order.

Z. Dong et al. / Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673 669

Fig. 9. Bilinear separate law and energy determination from traction. Fig. 11. Loaddisplacement curves of wet and dry surface contacts.

Z Z dmax release rate at the crack tip are mainly considerate. The main prin-
/ rdd f ddd 2 ciple of VCCT is about a fracture mechanics method, and it works
0 based on the assumption that when the crack comes out the re-
leased strain energy is the same with the energy required to close
3.2.2. Extended FEM with virtual crack closure technique the crack by the same amount.
As damage keeps growing, crack will occur and propagation
into asphalt mortar. In the realm of nonlinear nite element meth-
3.2.3. Uniaxial tension experiment for initial crack energy
od, by enriching the solution space for solutions to differential
Damage energy release rate is a key parameter for the imple-
equations with discontinuous functions, extended nite element
mentation of CZM and XFEM cooperated with VCCT, the uniaxial
method (XFEM) is developed in 1999 by Belytschko et al. [28].
tension experiment equipment was developed to account for the
Mesh free methods while alleviating their negative sides are main
impact of mesostructural aggregate (shape, angularity and texture)
advantage and development compared with FEM. A key advantage
[29], it is shown in Fig. 10. Traction fracture of adhesive interface
of XFEM is that in such problems the nite element mesh does not
and cohesive asphalt mortar is a common kind of distress type,
need to be updated to track the crack path, discontinuous basis
all numerical criteria is on the basis of traction mode. In this exper-
functions are added to standardize polynomial basis functions for
iment, some precondition should be provided to guarantee the pre-
nodes. These nodes are belonged to elements which are intersected
cision. Firstly, single size coarse aggregates (19 mm) chosen from
by a crack to provide a basis that included crack opening displace-
the same crushed aggregate plant should have similar mesostruc-
ments. Eq. (3) describes the main theory of XFEM and it is reason-
tural parameters. Secondly, a controlled line is used to make con-
able to estimate displacement of crack surface, where l(x) is
tact depth the same for each aggregate. These preparations are
approximate displacement interpolation functions, N is nodes col-
for the sake of a control of inuence factors.
lection of all regular elements, Ndisc is nodes collection of all com-
Microscopic interface is an adhesive contact and asphalt mortar
pletely cracking elements, Nasy is the nodes collection of all
bond is a cohesive type. Based on consideration of two contacts,
cracking tip elements, li means nodes of regular elements, aj
the employment of wet and dry surface is an approach to evaluate
means node of completely cracking elements and b is displacement
mechanical responses for adhesive and cohesive contacts (shown
of cracking lip elements.
in Fig. 11). After approximation and lter process of loaddisplace-
X X X a
lx Ni li Nj Hxaj Nk /a xbk 3 ment data through eight parallel tests, parameters of numerical
i2N j2N disc k2N asy models are calculated, GI in Table 2 means traction fracture energy
release rate.
Not only XFEM is conducted to simulate crack behavior of asphalt
mortar, but also virtual crack closure technique (VCCT) is imple-
mented into the crack propagation of bonding interface. VCCT is a 4. Discussion and analysis
well-known public domain post processing and remeshing tech-
nique that provides progressive crack growth between contacting All models about cohesive and XFEM with VCCT are shown in
surfaces. The fracture toughness of the bond and the strain energy Fig. 12, models bear 1 mm shear displacement load on the

Fig. 10. Uniaxial tension equipment and traction test.

670 Z. Dong et al. / Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673

Table 2 can obtain precise mechanical responses, especially a global and

Parameters of numerical models in macro-meso scale (4 C). detailed distribution in different scales. Because of its effective
Types Adhesive type Cohesive type deformation or strain solution method, the calibration on meso-
rmax GI rmax GI structural model has been accomplished using an indirect tensile
test (IDT).
Results 0.75 MPa 59.2 J/m2 0.5 MPa 2027.6 J/m2
According to the methodologies addressed in the third part,
the numerical model adopts XFEM and bonding interface.
condition with a xed bottom. ABAQUS is implemented to accom- 1 mm displacement is given in tensile test, and the horizontal
plish these simulations. strain elds are presented in Fig. 13. An inhomogeneous distri-
bution obviously exists in asphalt mortar component, a zonal
4.1. Model calibration concentration along loading direction can be observed in both
measurement contour and simulation results. The values of hor-
As a non-contacting deformation measurement technique, dig- izontal strain for measured and calculated contours show a sim-
ital image correlation (DIC) method is convenient to capture defor- ilar magnitude. Crack initiation generates in the mesoscopic
mation eld for material test. These measurements can be made on model, the accurate position of cracking element is extracted
length scales ranging from microns to meters. Based on mathemat- (shown in Fig. 13). Moreover, it is easily found that disadvan-
ical analysis on digital speckle images captured from cameras, it tage deformation concentration zone in DIC image and these
can calculate the displacement and deformation of each subset damage elements are located in almost the same position. Mes-
for each time increment. One of the advantages is that this method ostructural damage model can be used to do damage assessment

Fig. 12. Numerical models of Mix A as an example.

Fig. 13. Mesostructural damage model calibration including DIC for IDT test.
Z. Dong et al. / Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673 671

Fig. 14. Distribution of SEDG contours and cracks in meso-scale.

for three asphalt mixtures when undergoing a small

displacement load.

4.2. Damage assessment

SDEG and STATUSXFEM are dened in ABAQUS eld output.

SDEG represents damage status of interface elements adopted
CZM element, when this value is one which means the complete
damage of the interface elements, while the zero of its value means
that the interface has no damage. For asphalt mortar, if STATUSX-
FEM is one which means complete cracking of these elements,
however zero shows a no damage element. Mesostructural models
are convenient to illustrate mesoscopic damage, and they can take Fig. 15. Interface element contacting status curves.
distribution into consideration, associated with characteristics of
coarse aggregate and asphalt mortar in meso-scale. Numerical the results indicate that interface contacting characteristics in
models provide a way to nd the differences between macroscopic meso-scale inuence the cracking of asphalt mortar. A preliminary
design and mesostructural characteristics. summary can be obtained, distribution of coarse aggregates and
In Fig. 14, the bottom images show the SDEG contour in left- asphalt mortar exhibit a signicant impact on properties of asphalt
bottom corner of three models. In this region, interface elements mixture, such as a reasonable skeleton and different orientations
of Mix B present a better distributed SDEG value than other two are essential to improve the damage resistance.
models. From mesostructural distribution, Mix B has a good inner It is not enough to just focus on the contour distribution about
skeleton surrounding with coarse aggregates in different orienta- damage of interface and asphalt mortar, some results under smal-
tions and sizes. However, the left-bottom region of Mix A has a ler scale such as elements for interface and asphalt mortar are
large area of asphalt mortar, which lacks the ability to bear shear helpful to understand mesostructural performance of asphalt mix-
displacement. When it came to Mix C, it is obvious that there are tures. The contrast curves of damage elements for three kinds of
few coarse aggregates arranged in the right and bottom corner. asphalt mixture are shown in Figs. 15 and 16. The maximum values
Three gures in the rst array show that one crack in Mix A, no of SDEG are similar for Mix B and Mix C and a smallest one occurs
crack in Mix B and two cracks in Mix C. XFEM is used to simulate in Mix A, the values are 0.887, 0.856, and 0.790. The same result is
the cracking resistance cooperated with interface contacting model obviously found in Fig. 15, Mix C shows a largest distribution, and
(VCCT). Because of a similar location of weak interfaces and cracks, followed by Mix B and Mix A. Additionally, SEDG value curve for
672 Z. Dong et al. / Construction and Building Materials 53 (2014) 665673

Fig. 16. Asphalt mortar failure status curves.

components but high-molecular polymer. Its inner responses are

complicated undergoing environmental and mechanical stimula-
tions, which is difcult to be interpreted just accounting for the
macroscopic scale. Furthermore, the combination with different
scales can be more effective to make a evaluation even prediction
for the performance of hot asphalt mix.

5. Conclusion

(1) It is proved that mesostructural damage model is calibrated

Fig. 17. Failure energy cumulative curves.
in a small displacement according to the data contrast between
measurements and numerical responses. (2) Scale is an important
factor which inuences the performance, experimental properties
Mix B presents a large variation, which means the interfaces lack
of asphalt mortars and mesostructural parameters of coarse aggre-
an entire instability. Although a strongest asphalt mortar and a
gates can be employed to effectively explain the distinctions be-
best interlocking skeleton are found in Mix B, mesostructural
tween contour and curves distribution for the damage
parameters of coarse aggregates can directly affect the contacting
assessments. (3) Macroscopic evaluation index is not as effective
properties for these interface elements. As a consequence, the
as mesoscopic index to make an evaluation on the mesostructural
poorest AR and SIPC indexes for Mix B degrade its capability to
damage. A comprehensive consideration should be taken into the
make a best adhesive interface. Nevertheless, the skeleton and as-
current material design method for hot mix asphalt.
phalt mortar provide a resistance to cracking for STATUSXFEM. But
in Fig. 16, Mix A shows a larger element distribution than Mix C,
which is different with the contour distribution. The main reason Acknowledgements
is that the cracking area in Min A is larger than the cracks in Mix
C, which means that cracking elements in Mix A are more serious The authors would like to acknowledge the nancial support
than failure elements in Mix C. provided by National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)
multi-scale mechanical behavior and trans-scale mechanism of
4.3. Evaluation index contrast asphalt pavement (Grant No. 51278159).

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