ICT breaks new ground with pavement research

4/26/2023 McCall Macomber

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering professors Imad Al-Qadi and Erol Tutumluer are breaking new ground with highway and airfield pavements.

Learn about Illinois Center for Transportation’s latest research projects with the Federal Aviation Administration, National Asphalt Pavement Association, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Indiana Department of Transportation.

Cracking Performance Tests for Airfield Balanced Mix Design

Al-Qadi leads the $1 million National Asphalt Pavement Association and Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored project.

Joining Al-Qadi are the University of New Hampshire’s Jo Sias and Eshan Dave, Arizona State University’s Hasan Ozer, Applied Research Associates’ Scott Murrell and Heritage Research Group’s Bill Pine.

The project, which began in August 2022, aims to develop asphalt concrete cracking tests and specifications along with their acceptance criteria for mix design, production and construction.

Al-Qadi’s team will validate the developed tests with airfield pavement performance at national airports. They have collected materials from five airports across the U.S. to date.

The ultimate goal is to incorporate the developed tests and criteria into FAA’s specifications across the country.

The project will conclude August 2025.

Prototype Particle-Accelerator Modified Asphalt Binder

This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-sponsored project, led by Al-Qadi and in collaboration with Fermilab, will assess a particle-accelerator prototype for asphalt binder healing and rejuvenating.

Asphalt binder — an adhesive that holds aggregates, such as gravel or crushed stone, in pavement together — ages with time and becomes brittle.

Al-Qaid’s team seeks to enhance asphalt binder’s durability through their particle accelerator, which will use electron beams to modify asphalt binder, also known as engineered binder.

Effectively using modified binder will allow pavements to endure higher traffic loads and traffic volumes than unmodified binders as well as better withstand extreme temperatures, minimizing damage to pavement and reducing maintenance and rehabilitation.

The project, which kicked off September 2021, will end March 2024.

Reflective Cracking Model for Airport Asphalt Overlay Design

Al-Qadi and UIUC’s Armando Duarte join ASU’s Hasan Ozer, who leads this FAA-sponsored effort, to develop a design protocol for the thickness of airport asphalt concrete overlays — a layer placed on top of existing pavement to extend its service life.

The aim of the project is to develop a mechanistic design approach and surrogate artificial intelligence model to control reflective cracking, in which cracks appear on the overlay surface due to movement in a joint or a discontinuity in existing pavement.

They will validate their model with field data, and the ultimate goal is to incorporate the developed approach into FAA’s FAARFIELD tool for airfield pavement design.

The project, which began March 2021, will conclude May 2024.

Investigate Resilient Modulus Improvements to Bases and Subgrades from Geosynthetic Reinforcement

Tutumluer leads an Indiana Department of Transportation highway reconstruction project to instrument geosynthetic-stabilized new pavements in South Bend, Indiana.

The project aims to measure stiffness improvements to pavement base and subgrade layers using geosynthetics — which help stabilize and strengthen soil or aggregates in underlying pavement layers.

The researchers will use automated plate load testing and bender-element field sensors — which transmit shear waves through a prepared test specimen and collect transmitted wave signals — to develop geosynthetic reinforcement guidelines for INDOT.

The two-year project will end August 2024.