A critical step in the design of asphalt mixtures is laboratory compaction. Laboratory compaction should reflect field compaction and should produce mixtures that are economical and possess high structural stability. During the compaction process, asphalt mixtures are subjected to certain amount of compaction energy in order to achieve the required density. The Superpave volumetric mix design is based on compacting HMA mixtures to a specified compaction level described by the number of gyrations from the Superpave gyratory compactor (SGC). This level is termed Ndes and represents the required energy (based on the traffic level expected) to densify the mixture to a 4% air voids level. This paper re-examines the Superpave compaction requirements through extensive laboratory investigation of the response of a number of asphalt mixtures to the applied compaction energy. It also presents an alternative method to estimate the number of gyrations at which a mixture first reaches an optimum aggregate interlock and hence prevents overcompaction problems that might result in unstable aggregate structures or dry asphalt mixtures. A total of 12 HMA mixtures were studied. During compaction, force measurement was made using the pressure distribution analyzer (PDA). The compaction characteristics of the mixtures were analyzed using data from the PDA and the traditional Superpave Gyratory Compactor (SGC) results.
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