About the research
Oxidation is the primary cause of long-term aging in asphalt pavements. As a pavement oxidizes, it stiffens and can eventually crack. The use of an antioxidant as a performance enhancer in an asphalt binder could delay aging, thus increasing the life of an asphalt pavement. Lignin is a highly available and well-studied antioxidant. A wet-mill ethanol plant produces several co-products, some of which contain lignin. The use of lignin from ethanol production could provide a benefit to asphalt pavements and also give more value to the co-products. The following research examined the effects of lignin on asphalt pavements.
Three lignin-containing co-products were separately combined with four asphalt binders in varying amounts to determine the optimum amount of co-product that would provide the greatest benefit to the asphalt binders. The asphalt binder and co-product blends were evaluated according to Superpave specifications and performance graded on a continuous scale. The data indicated a stiffening effect on the binder caused by the addition of the co-products. The more a co-product was added, the more a binder stiffened. Binder stiffening benefited the high temperature properties and the low temperature binder properties were negatively affected. However, the low temperature stiffening effects were small and in many cases not significant. The co-products had an overall effect of widening the temperature range of the binders. This result suggests some antioxidant activity between the binder and the lignin. Testing with a fourth co-product with no lignin supported the idea that lignin acts as an antioxidant. The samples with no lignin aged significantly more than the samples with lignin. Infrared spectrometry also supported the idea that lignin acts as an antioxidant by observing decreases in some oxidative aging products.