Characterization of Bitumen Micro-Mechanical Behaviors Using AFM, Phase Dynamics Theory and MD Simulation
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Fundamental understanding of micro-mechanical behaviors in bitumen, including phase separation, micro-friction, micro-abrasion, etc., can help the pavement engineers better understand the bitumen mechanical performances at macroscale. Recent researches show that the microstructure evolution in bitumen will directly affect its surface structure and micro-mechanical performance. In this study, the bitumen microstructure and micro-mechanical behaviors are studied using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) experiments, Phase Dynamics Theory and Molecular Dynamics (MD) Simulation. The AFM experiment results show that different phase-structure will occur at the surface of the bitumen samples under certain thermodynamic conditions at microscale. The phenomenon can be explained using the phase dynamics theory, where the effects of stability parameter and temperature on bitumen microstructure and micro-mechanical behavior are studied combined with MD Simulation. Simulation results show that the saturates phase, in contrast to the naphthene aromatics phase, plays a major role in bitumen micro-mechanical behavior. A high stress zone occurs at the interface between the saturates phase and the naphthene aromatics phase, which may form discontinuities that further affect the bitumen frictional performance.