Self-healing asphalt binders have the potential to extend the service life of payment. This is a priority for federal and state transportation administrations as billions of taxpayer dollars are spent each year to expand and maintain the pavement infrastructure in the US. The ability to engineer longer lasting asphalt would have a profound economic impact and leave less of an environmental footprint since fewer resources would be used. Ultimately, consumption of non-renewable natural resources such as crude oil and crushed mineral aggregates will be reduced as well.
CAEE assistant professor Amit Bhasin received a five-year CAREER award from the National Science Foundation to support his research on investigating the molecular, physical and mechanical properties that influence macroscopic self-healing in asphalt materials. It is well recognized that asphalt binders have the inherent ability to self-heal, which offsets fatigue crack growth in asphalt mixtures and leads to longer lasting pavements. However, very little work has been done to explain why certain kinds of asphalt binders and mixtures have better self-healing characteristics than others.
The findings from this research will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of crack nucleation and self-healing in asphalt mixtures. A combination of advanced computational methods and experimental tools that allow real time measurement of crack opening and closing at the nanometer scale will be used to obtain data. It is expected that based on the results engineers will able to facilitate the design of asphalt binders and mixtures with superior self-healing characteristics and mechanical properties.
The educational component of this award will help develop an e-learning module that will use basic, short examples and case studies to expose, educate, and inspire undergraduate students to investigate and understand the link between the macroscopic behavior of fundamental chemical and mechanical properties of materials used in civil engineering applications to their macroscopic behavior.
In addition to his basic research related to infrastructure materials, Bhasin is also conducting research to solve immediate problems and needs of the asphalt pavement industry. He is a researcher in the Asphalt Research Consortium, a national effort supported by the Federal Highway Administration and conducted by a conglomerate of leading Universities and research agencies. His research will result in test methods and models to improve the state-of-practice to select and design asphalt materials for pavement construction. With funding from the Texas Department of Transportation, Bhasin is studying the long-term impact of using chemical additives to produce warm mix asphalt. Compared with conventional technology, warm mix asphalt uses less energy during production and has reduced harmful gas emission during placement and compaction. Bhasin’s research will help the departments of transportation use warm mix asphalt technology, while ensuring that the long-term durability of the pavement is not compromised.
More information on Amit Bhasin.