Investigation on the self-healing capabilties of asphaltic materials using neutron imaging
Abstract: Bitumen acts as a binding agent in asphalt mixtures where it binds the aggregates together. It is known for its potential to heal small cracks and recover its mechanical properties under the right conditions. Though this self-healing property is known, there is currently a lack of knowledge about the mechanisms that drive the process. To optimize the use of this material for pavement design, the healing ability should be better understood and controlled. In this work, it is investigated how neutron imaging can be used to increase the understanding of the mechanisms behind the self-healing in bitumen. As a first step, the sample size requirement set by the measurement technique was determined. In order to detect micro cracks in bitumen by using this technique, the sample must be sufficiently small to allow neutron transmission. On the other hand, too small samples would complicate the structural analysis of the material since less information would be possible to obtain. Bitumen with different dimensions were scanned with neutrons to determine the maximum sample thickness. This work was followed by evaluating the healing capability of fractured bitumen and mastic samples, by using time series neutron tomography. The studied samples had a varying combination of hydrated lime (HL) filler concentration, crack volume, and contact area between the broken pieces. The data acquired from the time series tomography scans was analyzed using a three-dimensional analysis procedure including denoising, segmentation and volume measurements. From the volumetric analysis, it appeared that the initial crack size and crack shape have a large impact on the healing rate. It was found that bitumen, mastic with 20%, and 30% filler content had a similar healing behavior for relatively small crack volumes. When increasing the content of HL in the mastic, the healing rate decreases exponentially, with a drastic decrease after reaching a filler content of about 30%.
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