Effect of treatment temperature on the microstructure of asphalt binders: insights on the development of dispersed domains.
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This paper offers important insights on the development of the microstructure in asphalt binders as a function of the treatment temperature. Different treatment temperatures are useful to understand how dispersed domains form when different driving energies for the mobility of molecular species are provided. Small and flat dispersed domains, with average diameter between 0.02 and 0.70 m, were detected on the surface of two binders at room temperature, and these domains were observed to grow with an increase in treatment temperature (up to over 2 m). Bee-like structures started to appear after treatment at or above 100C. Moreover, the effect of the binder thickness on its microstructure at room temperature and at higher treatment temperatures was investigated and is discussed in this paper. At room temperature, the average size of the dispersed domains increased as the binder thickness decreased. A hypothesis that conciliates current theories on the origin and development of dispersed domains is proposed. Small dispersed domains (average diameter around 0.02 m) are present in the bulk of the binder, whereas larger domains and bee-like structures develop on the surface, following heat treatment or mechanical disturbance that reduces the film thickness. Molecular mobility and association are the key factors in the development of binder microstructure.