Lecture 1 Bitumen and Bituminous Materials



Bitumen is a highly viscous, black, organic liquid that is obtained from crude oil. It is the sticky residue left when all of the lighter components of crude oil have been removed during the distillation process. It is similar to tar, which is a residue obtained during the distillation of coal. Bitumen was once commonly used as a waterproofing sealant in boats and in building construction, but its principle use now is as a binding agent mixed with mineral aggregate for paving roads. Bitumen is also known as 'asphalt', particularly in North America. In the UK the term 'Asphalt' usually refers to the paving mixture of bitumen and aggregate, which is known as 'asphalt concrete' in North America. In Australia, 'bitumen' is often used as a generic term for any surfaced road, as opposed to un-surfaced or 'dirt' roads. Bitumen-based road surfacing material is also known in some parts of the world as 'tarmac', short for 'tar macadam', a type of road construction surfaced with a penetrating tar or bitumen sealant.



Bitumen is a product of oil-refining. It is an industrial by-product which has found an obvious use in road construction. However, there are also: • • Tar: a by-product of coal-gas production Natural asphalts: The best known of which is Trinidad Lake Asphalt, it comes from a large lake of bitumen formed in an extinct volcano; natural asphalts are sometimes blended with bitumen from oil-refining to improve the physical properties.

Bitumens are complex hydrocarbons containing the following typical element properties:

Carbon Hydrogen Sulfur Oxygen Nitrogen

82-88% 8-11% 0-6% 0-1.5% 0-1%

Broadly, bitumen consists of: • • Asphaltenes – insoluble, polar, large particles Maltenes – which act to dispense asphaltenes (= resins, aromatics, saturates)

Depending on the ratio of asphaltene/maltene there are two extreme types of bitumen, with most real bitumens being between the two.

Figure 1: SOL (The Shell Bitumen Handbook 1991)

Figure 2: GEL (The Shell Bitumen Handbook 1991)

Bitumens have three important physical characteristics: • • • Viscosity – they flow like any other liquid Elasticity – there is a recoverable strain component Fracture – they crack if strained too quickly

In a bituminous mix: Viscosity affects the resistance to rutting Elasticity affects the stiffness Fracture affects the resistance to fatigue cracking

Cut-backs and Emulsions To make a bitumen easier to handle, e.g. for spraying, it is useful to lower its viscosity at ambient temperatures. This can be done by: (a) adding kerosine = cut-back (b) creating an emulsion: The use of cutback bitumens is decreasing because of: • Environmental regulations. Cutback bitumens contain volatile chemicals that evaporate into the atmosphere. Emulsified bitumens evaporate water into the atmosphere. • Loss of high energy products. The petroleum solvents used require higher amounts of energy to manufacture and are expensive compared to the water and emulsifying agents used in emulsified bitumens. In many places, cutback bitumen use is restricted to patching materials for use in cold weather. Emulsifiers are chain molecules, one end of which has an affinity for bitumen. The other end is ionic (either cationic or anionic) and attached itself to water molecules. To create an emulsion a high shear blender is used. Emulsions “break when the emulsifier molecules react with aggregate particles and are pulled out from around the bitumen droplet, generally leaving the bitumen adhering to the aggregate.

Modifiers Bitumens can be changed chemically by the addition of the following: Sulfur Rubbers Manganese • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Increase workability at mix temperatures Sets at lower temperatures ensuring a dense non-deformable mix Usually little affect Can increase crack resistance slightly Causes additional bonding between bitumen molecules increasing viscosity Increase deformation resistance Decreases fatigue crack resistance Also increases additional bonding between molecules Also increases deformation resistance But enables lower mixing temperatures May decrease fatigue crack resistance Only compatible with some bitumens Dispersed into maltenes forming interconnecting rubber structure Reduces stiffness Increases deformation resistance Increases fatigue crack resistance

Thermoplastic polymers

Thermoplastic rubbers


Bituminous Mixtures

The main constituents used in bituminous mixtures are: • • • • Coarse aggregate: Fine aggregate: Filler: Binder: crushed stone,, gravel, slag; > 2.36mm minerals of sand; < 2.36mm fine graded material, usually limestone (sometimes PC); < 0.075mm usually bitumen sometimes tar etc.

There are basically two generic types of mix common in the UK:


Broadly graded, Dense interlocking aggregate skeleton, Low binder content Medium to soft binder Gap graded, Workable mix, High binder content, Hard binder


Although mixtures have their constituents specified by mass, it is in terms of volume that the differences in materials can be most readily understood.

Table 1 Typical differences in the main wearing course bituminous mixtures MIXTURE Mastic asphalt Hot rolled asphalt Open coarse macadam Dense bitumen macadam BINDER 5-20 Pen 40-60 Pen 100-300 Pen 100-300 Pen BINDER CONTENT 13-20% 6-12% 4-7% 5-8% ROLLING TEMPERATURE 175-220°C 90-120°C 55-100°C 55-100°C

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