Defining Common Asphalt Terminology – Part 1

Defining Common Asphalt Terminology Part 1 from Go Pave Utah

If you’re interested in learning more about asphalt production and processes, you may hear some terms that you’re unsure of. This blog is here to help! Here are a few common terms in the asphalt industry, as defined by the, that are important to understand:

Absolute Viscosity – The measure of the viscosity of asphalt in relation to time. The test is measured in poises (see definition in Part 2) and conducted at 140oF by using a partial vacuum to create flow in the viscometer.

Aggregate – A hard mineral composition of sand, gravel, slag, or crushed stone. It’s used in pavement applications either alone or by mixing with a binder. Types include coarse, fine, and mineral filler.

Asphalt (Asphalt Binder/Asphalt Cement/Bitumen) – A dark cementitious material containing bitumens from nature or petroleum processing.

Balanced Paving Operation – The balance of the four phases of paving: mixture production, mixture hauling, paving operations, and compaction.

Base Course – The layer of material directly below the surface, typically composed of crushed stone, slag, gravel, sand, or hot-mix asphalt.

Bleeding (Flushing) – Upward movement of asphalt resulting in a film on the surface of the asphalt pavement, typically due to too much asphalt in one or more of the pavement courses.

Cold Mix Asphalt – A mixture of emulsified asphalt produced at a central plant or mixed at the site. Can be stored and used at a later date.

Compaction – The process of compressing a given volume of material into a smaller volume.

Curing – The development of the mechanical properties of the asphalt binder, occurring after the breakdown of emulsion and the particles bond to the aggregate.

Deflection – A load-induced downward movement of a pavement section.

Density – The solidity degree that is achieved in a given mixture. This is only limited by the total elimination of voids between particles in the material.

Ductility – The ability of the substance to be drawn out or stretched/thinned.

Emulsified Asphalt – A combination of asphalt cement, water, and an emulsifying agent.

Emulsifying Agent/Emulsifier – A chemical added to the water and asphalt that keeps the asphalt in stable suspension in the water. It controls the breaking rate.

Fatigue Resistance – The ability of asphalt pavements to resist cracks caused by repeated flexing.

Flexibility – The ability of an asphalt pavement to conform to the settlement demands.

Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) – High-quality, controlled hot mixture of asphalt binder/cement and well-graded, high-quality aggregate, which can be compacted into a uniform solid mass.

Impermeability – The resistance an asphalt pavement has to the passage of air/water into/through the pavement.

Lift – A layer of paving material that is applied to a base or previous layer.

Lime-treated Subgrade – A technique for subgrade preparation where the subgrade soil and added lime are mechanically mixed and compacted in order to produce a higher modulus (stress response) base material.

Maintenance Mix – A mixture of asphalt emulsion and mineral aggregate created in small amounts intended for use in patching or other repairs.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of this blog series to learn more common asphalt terms pertinent to the paving industry.




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