Balanced asphalt mix design and pavement distress predictive models based on machine learning
Traditional asphalt mix design procedures are empirical and need random and lengthy trials in a laboratory, which can cost much labor, material resources, and finance. The initiative (Material Genome initiative) was launched by President Obama to revitalize American manufacturing. To achieve the objective of the MGI, three major tools which are computational techniques, laboratory experiments, and data analytics methods are supposed to have interacted. Designing asphalt mixture with laboratory and computation simulation methods has developed in recent decades. With the development of data science, establishing a new design platform for asphalt mixture based on data-driven methods is urgent. A balanced mix design, defined as an asphalt mix design simultaneously considering the ability of asphalt mixture to resist pavement distress, such as rutting, cracking, IRI (international roughness index), etc., is still the trend of future asphalt mix design. The service life of asphalt pavement mainly depends on the properties of the asphalt mixture. Whether asphalt mixture has good properties also depends on advanced asphalt mix design methods. Scientific mix design methods can improve engineering properties of asphalt mixture, further extending pavement life and preventing early distress of flexible pavement. Additionally, in traditional asphalt mix design procedures, the capability to resist pavement distress (rutting, IRI, and fatigue cracking) of a mixture is always evaluated based on laboratory performance tests (Hamburg wheel tracking device, Asphalt Pavement Analyzer, repeated flexural bending, etc.). However, there is an inevitable difference between laboratory tests and the real circumstance where asphalt mixture experiences because the pavement condition (traffic, climate, pavement structure) is varying and complex. The successful application examples of machine learning (ML) in all kinds of fields make it possible to establish the predictive models of pavement distress, with the inputs which contain asphalt concrete materials properties involved in the mix design process. Therefore, this study utilized historical data acquired from laboratory records, the LTPP dataset, and the NCHRP 1-37A report, data analytics and processing methods, as well as ML models to establish pavement distress predictive models, and then developed an automated and balanced mix design procedure, further lying a foundation to achieve an MGI mix design in the future. Specifically, the main research content can be divided into three parts:1. Established ML models to capture the relationship between properties of the binder, aggregates properties, gradation, asphalt content (effective and absorbed asphalt content), gyration numbers, and mixture volumetric properties for developing cost-saving Superpave and Marshall mix design methods; 2. Developed pavement distress (rutting, IRI, and fatigue cracking) predictive models, based on the inputs of asphalt concrete properties, other pavement materials information, pavement structure, climate, and traffic; 3. Proposed and verified an intelligent and balanced asphalt mix design procedure by combining the mixture properties prediction module, pavement distress predictive models and criteria, and non-dominated Sorting genetic algorithm-Ⅱ (NSGA-Ⅱ). It was discovered determining total asphalt content through predicting effective and absorbed asphalt content indirectly with ML models was more accurate than predicting total asphalt content directly with ML models; Pavement distress predictive models can achieve better predictive results than the calibrated prediction models of Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide (MEPDG); The design results for an actual project of surface asphalt course suggested that compared to the traditional ones, the asphalt contents of the 12.5 mm and 19 mm Nominal Maximum Aggregate Size (NMAS) mixtures designed by the automated mix design procedure drop by 7.6% and 13.2%, respectively; the percent passing 2.36 mm sieve of the two types of mixtures designed by the proposed mix design procedure fall by 17.8% and 10.3%, respectively.