Rock to Road

News Roads & Paving
Alberta bitumen “the best” for roadbuilding, states professor of chemistry

September 29, 2022  By Shannon Moneno

Research conducted by Simon Hesp, a professor of chemistry at Queen’s University – paid for by Alberta Innovates – has determined Alberta and Venezuela bitumen are the best for roadbuilding.

What makes Alberta’s product superior is its low wax content, which means asphalt made with the bitumen can be successfully recycled. The second significant binder component, which influences a road’s lifespan, is asphaltene. These are large molecules that give the binder cohesive strength and adhesive strength and prevent it from flowing at cold temperatures.

Paraffin waxes are often a natural component of asphalt, occurring in varying amounts depending on the source of the crude used to manufacture the binder. When wax content is high, asphaltenes tend to separate from the oils and pack together more tightly. A high-wax binder is stiffer at cold temperatures, which reduces adhesion and promotes cracking. An optimal binder, such as the Alberta product, has minimal wax and has a more-or-less uniform composition.



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