The Science Behind Temperature Changes & Asphalt

An asphalt road on a hot summer day with trees and mountains. Asphalt is a commonly used material in road construction and pavement—known for its durability and ability to withstand heavy traffic loads. However, like any material, asphalt is not immune to the effects of temperature changes. In this article, AJAX Paving will delve into the science behind how temperature affects asphalt and pavement.

The Science Behind Asphalt Temperature Changes

The science behind asphalt temperature changes lies in its thermal properties. Asphalt is a viscoelastic material, meaning it exhibits both viscous and elastic behavior. When exposed to heat, the asphalt binder undergoes a phase change, transitioning from a solid to a liquid state. This phase change affects the overall properties of the asphalt, making it more susceptible to deformation. On the other hand, when exposed to cold temperatures, the asphalt becomes stiff and rigid, leading to increased brittleness and the potential for cracking.

The temperature at which asphalt undergoes phase changes and exhibits different behaviors is known as the glass transition temperature (Tg). Below the Tg, the asphalt behaves more like a solid, while above the Tg, it exhibits more elastic properties. The Tg of asphalt can vary depending on factors such as the type of binder used and the composition of the mixture. 

How Does Heat Effect Asphalt?

Asphalt is sensitive to temperature changes, particularly heat. When exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time, asphalt can soften and become more susceptible to deformation. This is especially true in regions with hot climates. As the temperature rises, the asphalt binder in the pavement can melt, causing the surface to become sticky. This can lead to rutting, where depressions or grooves form in the pavement due to the weight of vehicles. Additionally, high temperatures can cause the asphalt to oxidize, leading to the development of cracks and reducing its overall lifespan.

How Does Ice and Cold Weather Effect Asphalt?

While heat can cause issues for asphalt, cold weather and ice can also pose challenges. When temperatures drop, asphalt becomes less flexible and more prone to cracking. This is known as thermal cracking. Additionally, the freeze-thaw cycle can cause damage to the pavement. When water enters small cracks in the asphalt and freezes, it expands, exerting pressure on the surrounding material. When the ice melts, the pavement can be left weakened and susceptible to further damage.

Strategies for Mitigating Temperature-Related Pavement Damage

To mitigate temperature-related damage to pavement, several strategies can be employed:

  1. Proper mix design: Using asphalt mixes specifically designed for the expected temperature conditions can help minimize the potential for damage. Cool asphalt mixes can be used in hot climates to reduce the risk of rutting, while modified asphalt mixes can enhance the resistance to thermal cracking in cold regions.
  2. Surface treatments: Applying reflective coatings or sealants to the pavement surface can help reduce the absorption of heat and minimize temperature rise. These treatments can also protect the asphalt from oxidation and extend its lifespan.
  3. Proper drainage: Implementing effective drainage systems can help prevent water from infiltrating the pavement and reduce the potential for freeze-thaw damage. This can be achieved through the installation of proper slope and drainage channels to divert water away from the pavement.
  4. Regular maintenance: Conducting routine inspections and maintenance activities, such as crack sealing and pothole repair, can help address temperature-related damage before it worsens. Timely repairs can extend the lifespan of the pavement and minimize the need for costly replacements.

For Expert Pavement Maintenance, Choose AJAX

Temperature changes have a significant impact on the performance and durability of asphalt and pavement. Whether it is the scorching heat or the freezing cold, asphalt is constantly subjected to thermal stresses that can lead to deformation, cracking, and reduced lifespan. By employing regular maintenance practices, we can minimize the effects of temperature changes on pavement and ensure safer and more durable road infrastructure.

With a wealth of experience and long-standing history, AJAX Paving sets itself apart by delivering top-notch paving services. For over 50 years, we have been proudly serving the states of Florida and Michigan with trustworthy and reliable paving solutions. At our asphalt paving company, we prioritize excellence in every aspect of our service. We differentiate ourselves from the competition by using top-of-the-line materials and assembling an expert team.

Premier Asphalt Paving Services With AJAX Paving

When it comes to asphalt projects, AJAX Paving is the trusted choice for efficient and modernized service. Whether you have a small repair or a large-scale project, our team of experts can cater to your needs. Consult with us today to learn more about how we can go above and beyond to exceed your expectations.

With our expertise and commitment to quality, we deliver exceptional results that withstand the test of time. Contact us today for all your asphalt needs.