Over the last decade, unexpected and sudden pavement failures have occurred in several provinces in South Korea. Some of these failures remain unexplained, further illustrating the gaps in our knowledge about binder chemistry. To prevent premature pavement distress and enhance road performance, it is imperative to provide an adequate characterization of asphalt. For this purpose, the current research aims at inspecting the chemistry, microstructure, thermal, and physico-rheological properties of two types of asphalt, namely petroleum asphalt (PA) and natural asphalt (NA). The binders were extensively investigated by using elemental analysis, thin-layer chromatography with flame ionization detection (TLC-FID), matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-fight mass spectroscopy (MALDI-TOF-MS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), Raman spectroscopy (RS), Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1
H-NMR), ultraviolet and visible spectroscopy (UV-VIS), X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), penetration, softening point, ductility, and viscosity tests. The findings of this research have revealed the distinct variations between the chemical compositions, microstructures, and thermo-rheological properties of the two asphalts and provided valuable knowledge into the characteristics of the binders. Such insight has been effective in predicting the performance or distress of road pavement. This paper will, therefore, be of immediate interest to materials engineers in state highway agencies and asphalt industries.
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