Developments in bitumen emulsion mixtures for roads
Bitumen emulsion mixtures, or cold mix, offers certain advantages over hot bituminous road mixtures in terms of potential cost savings, environmental factors, energy savings and easing of logistical difficulties inherent with hot mix. For these reasons, they are currently used in a number of regions including the United States of America, Continental Europe, Scandinavia, Southern Africa and Australia. However, cold mix has not been seriously evaluated or utilized in the UK until comparatively recently. This is due to the slow rate at which it builds strength or cures and its susceptibility to rainfall, particularly during this curing period. The overall aim of this research was, therefore, to study the behaviour of cold mix in terms of mechanical properties and the mechanisms involved in emulsion breaking and mixture curing to gain an insight into how performance may be improved. Mechanical properties were shown to be affected by a number of parameters, including binder grade, void content, curing time and additives such as cement. Fatigue tests showed that without cement, the performance in-situ of cold mix would be very poor. Pavement design calculations revealed that, with cement, emulsion mixtures could be expected to perform similarly to equivalent hot mix. Field trials have indicated that cold mix can be manufactured using conventional hot mix plant and laid using similar techniques. However, problems are still to be overcome in terms of the control of mixture composition and laying in adverse weather conditions. Fundamental tests have shown that emulsion droplet coalescence (which is an essential part of the curing process) was affected by pressure, bitumen type, emulsifier level, cement and temperature and that cement can cause emulsion charges to become more positive (or less negative) but other parameters had no effect on charge. It was also proved that cement can cause bitumen emulsion to set completely and that the residual binder has an increased viscosity compared with unmodified binder. This was shown to be due to the formation of a composite bitumen cement binder.