Flexible pavement thermal cracking performance sensitivity to fracture energy variation of asphalt mixtures

Academic Article


  • Thermal cracking in asphalt pavements continues to be a significant pavement distress mechanism in cold climate regions. The formation of discontinuities due to thermal cracking causes extensive damage to the integrity of the pavement and forms pathways for intrusion of water into the base and subgrade layers. Current use of the performance-based binder specifications has not been shown to effectively lower the propensity for this distress. When this is combined with advent of newer asphalt mix manufacturing and construction technologies as well as desire for incorporation of greater amounts of recycled materials in paving mixtures, it has led to significant research and implementation efforts on asphalt mixture performance-based specifications. On the basis of various past research studies on low temperature cracking, a performance specification that utilises fracture energy of asphalt mixtures through use of disk-shaped compact tension (DCT) test has been developed. A significant number of present studies are underway to implement these specifications including two states which are in the pilot implementation stage. A major question that has been raised during the implementation of these specifications has been in the lack of information on sensitivity of pavement thermal cracking performance to the variations in fracture energy of the mixture. The present study focused on determining the effects on thermal cracking performance of pavements for variations in DCT fracture energy of asphalt mixtures. The sensitivity was determined through use of the IlliTC thermal cracking simulation system. The IlliTC system utilises asphalt mixture’s fracture and viscoelastic properties to conduct finite element-based simulations using realistic pavement thermal loading conditions. Although this system has been validated in the past, the present study conducted further validation through comparison of predicted cracking performance with field-measured cracking performance. For sensitivity analysis, three types of asphalt mixtures for three climatic conditions and three pavement structures were evaluated. Apart from other things, the fracture mechanics in asphalt concrete at lower temperatures depend on the material’s fracture energy as well as its tensile strength. In order to ensure that the effects of fracture energy variations were the focus, a critical tensile strength value was determined for each scenario (for each mix for each climate), which allowed researchers to conduct the simulations with varying fracture energies (six different levels). The results show that a variation of 25 J/m(2) in the fracture energy could lead to significantly different pavement thermal cracking performances. This is a significant finding that will aid in continued implementation of the fracture energy-based material specifications and provides guidance to transportation agencies in development of the final version of their material specifications.
  • Authors

  • Dave, Eshan
  • Hoplin, Chelsea
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • May 25, 2015
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In


  • IlliTC
  • asphalt pavements
  • disk-shaped compact tension test
  • fracture energy
  • thermal cracking
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 423
  • End Page

  • 441
  • Volume

  • 16
  • Issue

  • sup1