Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Kamyar C. Mahboub


Low temperature cracking is a major distress in asphalt pavements. Several test configurations have been introduced to characterize the fracture properties of hot mix (HMA); however, most are considered to be research tools due to the complexity of the test methods or equipment. This dissertation describes the development of the indirect ring tension (IRT) fracture test for HMA, which was designed to be an effective and user-friendly test that could be deployed at the Department of Transportation level. The primary advantages of this innovative and yet practical test include: relatively large fracture surface test zone, simplicity of the specimen geometry, widespread availability of the required test equipment, and ability to test laboratory compacted specimens as well as field cores.

Numerical modeling was utilized to calibrate the stress intensity factor formula of the IRT fracture test for various specimen dimensions. The results of this extensive analysis were encapsulated in a single equation. To develop the test procedure, a laboratory study was conducted to determine the optimal test parameters for HMA material. An experimental plan was then developed to evaluate the capability of the test in capturing the variations in the mix properties, asphalt pavement density, asphalt material aging, and test temperature.

Five plant-produced HMA mixtures were used in this extensive study, and the results revealed that the IRT fracture test is highly repeatable, and capable of capturing the variations in the fracture properties of HMA. Furthermore, an analytical model was developed based on the viscoelastic properties of HMA to estimate the maximum allowable crack size for the pavements in the experimental study. This analysis indicated that the low-temperature cracking potential of the asphalt mixtures is highly sensitive to the fracture toughness and brittleness of the HMA material. Additionally, the IRT fracture test data seemed to correlate well with the data from the distress survey which was conducted on the pavements after five years of service. The maximum allowable crack size analysis revealed that a significant improvement could be realized in terms of the pavements performance if the HMA were to be compacted to a higher density. Finally, the IRT fracture test data were compared to the results of the disk-shaped compact [DC(t)] test. The results of the two tests showed a strong correlation; however, the IRT test seemed to be more repeatable.