The Cornerstones of Mix Design: Understanding Aggregate Gradation and Particle Shape

Overview of aggregate role in asphalt and concrete

Aggregates are one of the most important components of asphalt and concrete materials used in construction and infrastructure applications. Although they may seem like simple rocks, the properties and characteristics of the aggregate particles have a profound impact on the performance and service life of pavements, bridges, dams, and buildings. Optimizing aggregates is crucial to achieving durable, high-quality composite materials. In my 20+ years of experience as a project manager, I think the Asphalt mix design, asphalt pavement techniques, asphalt binder content, and mix design method along with the job mix formula make a Superpave that works well at low temperatures and high temperatures as well.

Aggregates compose the majority of the volume in both asphalt concrete and Portland cement concrete. In asphalt concrete, also known as hot mix asphalt (HMA), aggregates account for over 90% of the mixture by volume and mass. The asphalt binder coats and binds the fine and coarse aggregate particles together into a cohesive composite. For Portland cement concrete, aggregates make up 60-80% of the concrete volume. The cement paste binds the aggregates into a rigid matrix once it hardens.

Importance of aggregate role in asphalt and concrete

Since aggregates form the backbone of these construction materials, their characteristics greatly influence the engineering properties of the composite. Gradation, particle shape, hardness, porosity, and surface texture all impact overall performance. Optimized gradations and shapes allow the aggregates to tightly pack together, minimizing voids and maximizing density. Angular, interlocking particles provide strength. Resistance to weathering prevents deterioration. Combined with the matrix binder, well-engineered aggregates result in composites with the required load-bearing strength, stiffness, stability, and durability for the application.

For instance, proper aggregate selection and design allow asphalt concrete mixes to withstand heavy vehicle loads and extreme weather while providing a safe friction surface. The right crushed stone gradation prevents premature cracking or rutting failures. Concrete aggregates must be strong enough to bear the design loads of bridges, foundations, and structures. Low absorption provides durability to freezing, deicing salts, and marine environments. The aggregate system needs to be balanced with workability for efficient, quality construction.

Aggregates provide asphalt and concrete with strength, dimensional stability, and wear resistance for transportation, building, and infrastructure needs. Only with a highly controlled, engineered material like aggregate can such versatile, strong, economical composites be achieved from basic components. Utilizing locally available, abundant aggregates allows for sustainable, affordable development and economic growth. Infrastructure built with aggregate-optimized asphalt and concrete has facilitated global transportation networks, energy production, information technology, and overall modern quality of life.

As the underlying framework of engineered composite materials, aggregates confer essential structural qualities. Their gradation, shape, texture, and other attributes allow tailoring asphalt and concrete to meet diverse climate, loading, and practical requirements. The availability, low cost, and combination potential of aggregates with binder systems enable advancing civilization through affordable, sustainable means. While largely unseen, society relies on infrastructure made possible by engineering aggregates to high degrees of quality and performance.

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Aggregate Gradation Overview

Definition of gradation and particle size distribution

Aggregate gradation refers to the distribution of particle sizes within an aggregate sample. Gradation heavily influences the engineering properties and performance of asphalt and concrete mixtures. Optimizing gradation is crucial for workable, dense composites with required strength and durability.

Gradation encompasses both the range of sizes and relative proportions of different-sized aggregate particles within a mixture. Sieve analysis categorizes particles as they pass through sieves with progressively smaller mesh openings from coarse gravel down to fine dust. The measured cumulative percentage passing each sieve determines gradation.

Well-graded aggregates have an even distribution of particle sizes from maximum down to minimum sizes. Uniformly graded aggregates are predominantly one size. Gap-graded aggregates lack specific intermediate sizes. Open-graded aggregates are predominantly one size with minimal fines passing narrow size bands. Different applications call for different categories to strike the right balance of properties.

In asphalt concrete, both fine and coarse aggregates are combined. Coarse aggregates provide internal friction and load-bearing strength. Fine aggregates fill voids between coarse particles to improve cohesion. The binder must fully coat particles for proper bonding. Deficient or excess fines cause issues.

For Portland cement concrete, coarse and fine aggregates are also blended. Coarse aggregate provides stiffness and dimensional stability. Fine aggregate fills spaces between coarse pieces for workability before cement hydration provides strength. Excess fines weaken the concrete and create shrinkage cracks. Insufficient fines lead to segregation and honeycombing.

Gradation impacts key behaviors. Dense well-graded mixes are less permeable with higher strength but can be less workable. Open-graded mixes compact poorly but provide permeability. Uniformly graded single-size aggregates cause segregation. Balanced combined gradings optimize properties.

Specifications set acceptable gradation bands. Contractors must sample, sieve, and test aggregates to validate compliance. Stockpile gradations are combined into optimized job mixtures. Constant sampling guards against segregation during handling and batching.

Graduation profoundly influences the economics of paving and structures. Proper gradation allows:

  • Dense compaction and stability require less asphalt or cement binder
  • Better workability eases construction, improving quality
  • Increased strength and durability provide long service life

In my experience, I have learned that aggregate gradation determines critical behaviors in asphalt and concrete. Well-engineered gradations result in tightly packed aggregates locked into a stable matrix. Careful gradation control and testing ensure quality while minimizing binder needs through optimization. As the underlying framework of composites, gradation is foundational to performance.

Categories like well-graded, gap-graded, open-graded

Categories of Aggregate Gradation

Aggregate gradation categories refer to the spread of particle sizes and distribution patterns. By understanding gradation types, materials can be engineered for needed properties. Major gradation categories include:

Well-Graded Aggregate

Well-graded aggregates have a good representation of all particle sizes from largest to smallest. A wide, relatively even gradation distribution produces a tightly packed structure when compacted.

In concrete, well-graded combines coarse rock with fine sand. The variety of sizes fill voids, increasing density. Complete aggregate coating by the cement paste is ensured.

In asphalt concrete, both coarse and fine aggregates are well-represented. This allows dense particle packing, stability, and strength. Enough fines coat larger pieces to provide cohesion.

With a well-graded system, less binder is needed to fully coat particles during mixing compared to poorly graded aggregates. Well-graded aggregate blends optimize properties using less cement or asphalt.

However, workability can suffer from a wide range of sizes. Gradations may need adjustment to improve placement and consolidation based on the application.

Gap-Graded Aggregate

Gap-graded aggregates are missing certain intermediate particle sizes, creating a gap in the gradation. Often, fine aggregates passing the No. 30 or 50 sieve are deficient.

In concrete, gap-graded rock tends to segregate. Large pieces separate from paste and sand during pouring. This can leave uncoated aggregate and weak zones.

Gap-graded asphalt is prone to rock-on-rock contact with inadequate cohesion. Stiff mixtures are produced with poor workability. Durability issues can result.

Gap gradation is sometimes specified in large stone asphalt mixes to create stone interlock. But sufficient fines must still be present to fill voids and provide cohesion.

Gap-graded materials require care in production monitoring, transport, and placement to avoid segregation problems leading to non-uniform properties and performance.

Open-Graded Aggregate

Open-graded aggregates predominantly consist of one or two particle sizes with minimal amounts of fines passing narrow sieve size bands. Significant voids remain between the pieces.

Pervious concrete uses open-grading for water permeability, but it lacks strength for structural uses. Open-graded drainage layers provide a porous waterway in pavement systems.

Open-graded asphalt friction courses provide skid resistance and spray reduction on highways due to surface voids. But durability is reduced by oxidation and aging from air-filled space.

Dense packing and complete aggregate coating are not achieved with open-grading. While useful for specialized functions, conventional concrete and asphalt require fines to fill voids between particles.

Uniformly Graded Aggregate

Uniformly graded refers to aggregates with predominantly one size rather than a distribution. The aggregate fails a narrow range of sieve sizes.

In asphalt or concrete, uniformly graded single-sized coarse aggregate leads to harsh unworkable mixtures prone to segregation. Binders drain through voids between uniformly sized particles.

However, controlled use of uniformly graded aggregates as a component in properly designed combined gradations can contribute desired characteristics to the blend.

Coarse-Graded Aggregate

Coarse-graded contains a high proportion of coarse aggregates with insufficient fines. Asphalt mixtures exhibit drain-down, segregation, and lack of cohesion.

Overly coarse concrete aggregates cause harsh, unworkable concrete with reduced paste bonding. However, some large aggregates improve overall stability in mass concrete applications.

Fine-Graded Aggregate

Fine-graded aggregates are lacking in larger pieces but contain a high proportion of fines. Concrete is weaker and prone to shrinkage but exhibits a better surface finish.

Asphalt durability suffers from excessive fines that can become dislodged. Workability and compatibility may also be impacted depending on plasticity.

In summary, aggregate gradation categories must be properly engineered to achieve the required performance. Well-graded is preferred but specific gradations are designed for certain specialized applications. Controlled blending creates optimized combined aggregates.

Gradation design techniques and desired properties

Achieving optimized aggregate gradation requires carefully engineering the particle size distribution using specific design techniques. Certain gradation properties are targeted to yield mixtures with workability, stability, durability, and economy.

Design Techniques

Sieve Analysis

Sieve testing determines particle size distribution. Aggregates are shaken through stacked sieves with decreasing openings. The cumulative weight passing each sieve size is measured as a percentage. Sieve data is used to calculate gradation parameters and plotted to visualize distribution.

Balancing Gradation

The ideal combined gradation combines different aggregate stockpiles to achieve an even distribution across sieve sizes. Well-graded uniformity provides density but gaps reduce segregation. Stockpile handling, sampling, and testing prevent separation.

0.45 Power Curve

This gradation guideline plots percent passing versus sieve size on a 0.45 power graph. The sloped line provides a target for well-graded mixes. Asphalt and concrete specifications set limits around this ideal trend line.

12.5 mm Nominal Maximum

Concrete specifications often set a 12.5 mm nominal maximum size for coarse aggregate representing the smallest sieve with 100% passing. Limits are set for gradation proportions above and below this size.

Fineness Modulus

This index sums the cumulative percentages retained on a specified series of sieves. The resulting value characterizes coarseness or fineness for concrete fine aggregate grading control.

Statistical Models

Computer gradation optimization tools use simulated aggregates and mathematical modeling. Combined gradations meeting specifications are statistically generated for performance enhancement.

Desired Properties


Gradation affects mixture workability which impacts finishability, placeability, and constructability. Well-graded combinations need less water or asphalt for workability. Harshness indicates too much coarse aggregate.

Voids Content

Gradation determines voids in compacted concrete and asphalt. Insufficient voids cause bleeding while too high weakens mixtures. Well-graded gradation provides particle packing minimizing voids at 4-8%.

Mix Density

Gradation directly influences achievable density. Well-graded aggregates compact to high densities. Poorly graded mixtures have lower density from segregation and voids. Higher density improves strength and durability.

Cohesiveness and Stability

Gradation must ensure adequate fines to bind coarse aggregates together into a cohesive, stable matrix. Gap-graded and single-sized aggregates segregate under loads. Even size distribution prevents breakdown.


Optimized gradation improves resistance to weathering, wear, and loading without loss of composite integrity. Combined gradations prevent surface raveling and internal shear failures.


Well-graded aggregates minimize the binder paste needed for full coating and workability, reducing cement and asphalt requirements. Gradation optimization provides cost savings.

In summary, following best practice gradation design techniques yields asphalt and concrete mixtures with ideal properties. Combined gradations are engineered for application needs. Strict control ensures conformance.

Influence on workability, voids, density, strength

Influence of Gradation on Workability, Voids, Density, and Strength

Aggregate gradation has a significant impact on the workability, void content, density achievable, and ultimate strength of asphalt and concrete mixtures. Optimizing gradation balances these interrelated properties.

Influence on Workability

Workability refers to the ease with which a mixture can be placed, consolidated, and finished. Gradation affects workability.

Well-graded combined gradations with a range of particle sizes impart better workability than more uniformly graded single-sized aggregates. The variety of sizes allows the particles to flow, compact, and deform around each other without harshness or resistance.

Excessively coarse gradations make harsh, unworkable mixtures as the rock pieces lock together resisting movement and compaction. Insufficient fines also reduce workability by not filling gaps between coarse aggregates to lubricate paste flow.

On the other hand, excess fines result in sticky, cohesive plastic mixtures that hinder consolidation and finishing. The optimally graded aggregate skeleton binds together without over-cohesion.

Workability impacts placeability, finishability, pumpability, and compactability. Harsh mixtures are difficult to place, prone to segregation, and challenging to fully compact. Overly plastic mixtures resist proper consolidation and finishing. Optimized gradation provides ideal workability.

Influence on Voids Content

The void content refers to the volume of air voids left between aggregate particles in a compacted mixture. Gradation determines voids.

Well-graded aggregates with a range of sizes effectively fill gaps between particles, minimizing voids. Poorly graded, single-sized particles leave empty space even after compaction. Excessive voids reduce strength.

Target voids provide density without bleeding excessive binder paste. Typical void content goals range between 3-5% in concrete and 3-8% air voids in compacted asphalt. The right gradation produces voids in this ideal range.

Influence on Achievable Density

The maximum achievable density of compacted asphalt and concrete is directly related to aggregate gradation through its control of voids.

Well-graded gradations allow particles to pack together tightly with minimal voids remaining after compaction. This results in high densities. Gap-graded and uniformly-sized aggregates cannot compact to the same density due to unfilled space between particles.

Higher aggregate density translates to improved strength. It also maximizes durability, resistance to moisture damage, and longevity in concrete and asphalt composites.

Gradation optimization targets the highest possible density from a balanced workable combination to reach strength and stability objectives.

Influence on Strength

Aggregate gradation determines the strength of asphalt and concrete mixtures. Strength relies on particles interacting in a dense, interlocked structure.

Well-graded aggregates compact into a strong framework bonded by the binder paste. Uniformly graded particles lack the variety of sizes needed for maximum interlock and density to develop high strength.

Gradation provides the underlying structure while binders like asphalt and cement fill voids and lock particles together. Combined gradations optimize internal friction, cohesion, rigidity, and reinforcement for strength.

Durable, angular aggregate shapes enhance interlocking. Weak, absorptive rocks reduce strength. The right blended gradation matches shape, hardness, and gradation.

In summary, aggregate gradation controls key behaviors in asphalt and concrete mixtures. Workability, void content, density, and strength must be balanced through expertly engineered gradations to produce quality composites.


Aggregate Particle Shape in Asphalt and Concrete


Particle shape is a key characteristic impacting aggregate performance. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of shape properties, quantification methods, and effects on composite behaviors. Optimizing shape is crucial for quality mixtures.

Description of Particle Shape Characteristics

Aggregate particles exhibit a variety of shape features influencing their engineering properties.


Angularity refers to the degree of sharp, well-defined edges and corners on aggregate particles. Highly angular aggregates have pronounced corners and unpolished fracture faces. Rounded particles exhibit smoothed worn features.

Angular particles mechanically interlock and resist movement which enhances stability in asphalt and concrete. Angularity also increases surface texture and stiffness.


Sphericity describes how close a particle approaches a spherical shape. Equi-dimensional rounded aggregates have high sphericity. Flaky and elongated particles are less spherical.

Less spherical aggregates provide better internal friction and interlock. Spherical particles tend to be weaker and less workable in mixtures.


Surface texture describes the condition of the exterior surface of particles. Smooth, polished surfaces have low texture while rough, irregular face textures are high.

The rougher surface texture provides more bonding area and friction. Smooth-textured aggregates are prone to weakness and slippage.


Flaky aggregates contain thin, flat pieces resembling flakes. Their last dimension significantly differs from the other two dimensions.

The flaky shape encourages breakage, segregation issues, and reduced workability. Elongated aggregates also reduce strength.

Are There Different Grades of Asphalt?

Yes, asphalt comes in various grades, each designed for specific purposes and applications. These grades are typically referred to as Performance Grade (PG) asphalt binders, which are classified based on their rheological properties and temperature susceptibility. Asphalt binders are graded to ensure they perform adequately under various temperature and traffic conditions.

Are There Different Grades of Asphalt for Driveways?

Absolutely. The choice of asphalt grade for driveways depends on factors like local climate, expected traffic loads, and budget. Commonly used grades for residential driveways include PG 58-28 and PG 64-22. These grades provide a balance of durability and flexibility, suitable for typical driveway conditions.

Are There Different Grades of Asphalt Shingles?

Yes, asphalt shingles also come in different grades. They are categorized based on the type of reinforcing mat used, which affects their durability and performance. Common asphalt shingle grades include three-tab shingles and architectural shingles. Three-tab shingles are more basic and cost-effective, while architectural shingles offer enhanced aesthetics and durability.

What Are the Different Grades of Asphalt?

The primary grading system for asphalt is the Performance Grade (PG) system, which assigns two numbers to the asphalt binder, such as PG 64-22. The first number represents the high-temperature performance grade, indicating the asphalt’s resistance to rutting, while the second number denotes the low-temperature grade, indicating its ability to resist cracking in cold conditions. There are various PG grades available to suit different climates and traffic conditions.

What Are the Different Grades of Asphalt Shingles?

As mentioned earlier, asphalt shingles have different grades based on their construction and quality. The most common grades are three-tab shingles and architectural shingles. Three-tab shingles are thinner and more budget-friendly, while architectural shingles are thicker, more durable, and often offer a more attractive appearance.

What Are the Grades of Asphalt?

In the context of asphalt, the term “grades” often refers to the different PG (Performance Grade) asphalt binders used in pavement construction. These grades are designated by a combination of numbers, indicating high-temperature and low-temperature performance characteristics. Common grades include PG 58-28, PG 64-22, and PG 70-22, among others.

What Is Open-Graded Asphalt?

Open-graded asphalt is a specific type of asphalt mix designed with a high percentage of air voids. It is characterized by its permeability, allowing water to drain through the pavement surface. Open-graded asphalt is often used in roadways and parking lots where effective water drainage is essential to prevent issues like hydroplaning.

A Grade Asphalt and Sealcoating

A grade asphalt” typically refers to the quality or performance grade of the asphalt binder used in a specific construction project. Sealcoating is a separate process that involves applying a protective layer to the surface of asphalt pavement to enhance its durability and resistance to environmental factors.

Are There Different Grades of Asphalt for Home Driveways?

Yes, there are different asphalt grades suitable for home driveways. The choice of grade depends on factors like climate, expected traffic loads, and local availability. Contractors typically select PG asphalt binders that meet the specific requirements of residential driveway projects.

Does Higher Performance Grade in Asphalt Mean Stiffer?

Yes, generally speaking, a higher Performance Grade (PG) in asphalt indicates that the asphalt binder becomes stiffer at high temperatures. The first number in the PG designation represents the asphalt’s high-temperature performance, with higher numbers indicating greater stiffness and resistance to rutting.

How Do I Build a Grade into Asphalt?

Achieving the desired grade (slope) in asphalt pavement involves precise engineering during the construction process. The grade is established by setting the correct elevations at various points along the pavement using surveying and grading equipment. This ensures water drainage and proper surface smoothness.

How Does Texas Grade Their Asphalt Binders?

In Texas, asphalt binders are graded according to the Performance Grade (PG) system, which follows national standards. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) specifies PG grades for asphalt binders used in state road construction projects, considering factors like climate and traffic loads.

How Is Asphaltic Concrete Graded?

Asphaltic concrete is graded based on its mixed design, which includes the proportions of aggregates and asphalt binder. The grading process ensures that the mix meets specific performance requirements, such as durability, workability, and resistance to cracking.

How Many Grades of Asphalt Are There?

There are numerous grades of asphalt available, primarily categorized under the Performance Grade (PG) system. The exact number of grades may vary depending on regional and national standards. Common PG grades include PG 58-28, PG 64-22, PG 70-22, and more.

How Many Grades of Asphalt Shingle Are There?

The roofing industry offers various grades of asphalt shingles to cater to different preferences and budgets. The most common categories are three-tab shingles and architectural shingles. Within these categories, you’ll find further variations in quality and performance.

How to Determine the Grade of Asphalt?

The grade of asphalt, particularly in the context of asphalt binders, is determined using performance tests that assess its high-temperature and low-temperature properties. These tests help classify the asphalt based on its suitability for specific applications and climate conditions.

How to Determine PG Grade of Asphalt?

To determine the Performance Grade (PG) of asphalt, specialized tests are conducted to evaluate its rheological properties at high and low temperatures. These test results are used to assign the appropriate PG designation, ensuring the asphalt meets performance requirements.

How to Grade Asphalt?

Grading asphalt involves establishing the desired slope or grade on the surface of the pavement. This is achieved through precise elevation measurements and adjustments made during the construction process to ensure proper drainage and smoothness.

How to Grade Asphalt Millings?

Grading asphalt millings, which are recycled asphalt pavement materials, involves leveling and compacting the milled surface to achieve the desired grade or slope. Proper grading ensures water drains away from the surface effectively.

Are There Different Grades of Asphalt?

Yes, there are different grades of asphalt, primarily categorized by the Performance Grade (PG) system. These grades are designed to meet specific performance criteria, making them suitable for various applications and environmental conditions.

What Are the Basic Grades of Asphalt for a Sidewalk?

The choice of asphalt grade for a sidewalk may depend on factors like expected traffic loads and climate. Commonly used asphalt grades for sidewalks include PG 58-28 and PG 64-22, which offer a balance of durability and workability

What Grade Asphalt PG Is Needed at 98% Reliability?

The selection of a Performance Grade (PG) asphalt binder at 98% reliability depends on the specific project requirements and the local climate. The PG grade needed for a particular project is determined based on factors such as temperature extremes and traffic conditions.

What Grade of Asphalt for the Driveway?

The choice of asphalt grade for a driveway depends on factors like climate and expected traffic loads. Commonly used grades for residential driveways include PG 58-28 and PG 64-22, which offer good performance in a wide range of conditions.

What Is Road Grade Asphalt?

Road-grade asphalt typically refers to asphalt binders graded according to the Performance Grade (PG) system. These binders are designed to meet specific performance criteria for use in road construction projects, ensuring durability and longevity.

What Is 6F Asphalt Grade Material?

“6F asphalt grade material” is not a standard term in asphalt grading. It may refer to a specific asphalt mix or product used in a particular context. To determine its properties and suitability, more information about the intended use is needed.

What Is Commercial Grade Asphalt Mix Design

Commercial grade asphalt refers to asphalt materials and mixes designed for use in commercial construction projects, such as parking lots and roadways. These mixes are often formulated to meet the specific needs and traffic conditions of commercial areas.

What Is Dense Graded Asphalt Mix Design?

Dense-graded asphalt is an asphalt mix that contains a well-graded combination of aggregates, including a range of particle sizes. This mixed design results in a dense and durable pavement surface suitable for various applications.

What Is Gap Graded Asphalt?

Gap-graded asphalt is an asphalt mix that contains a gap or void in the particle size distribution of its aggregates. This unique mix design is often used for special applications where specific properties are required.

What Is Gap Graded Asphalt Mix?

A gap-graded asphalt mix is an asphalt mixture intentionally designed with gaps or voids in its aggregate particle size distribution. This mix is tailored for specific performance characteristics and applications, such as noise reduction or water drainage.

What Is Grade D Asphalt?

“Grade D asphalt” is not a standard term in asphalt grading systems. Asphalt binders are typically classified using the Performance Grade (PG) system, with grades like PG 58-28 or PG 64-22.

What Is Meant by Performance Graded Asphalt Binders?

Performance Graded (PG) asphalt binders are asphalt materials classified based on their rheological properties and temperature performance. These binders are designed to meet specific standards, ensuring their suitability for different climate and traffic conditions.

What Is Open-Graded Asphalt Concrete?

Open-graded asphalt concrete is an asphalt mix designed with a high percentage of air voids, creating an open structure that allows water to drain through the pavement. It is often used in areas where effective drainage is essential, such as highways and airports.

What Is Performance Graded Asphalt Binder?

Performance Graded (PG) asphalt binder is an asphalt material graded based on its performance characteristics at high and low temperatures. These binders are designated with PG ratings, indicating their suitability for specific climate conditions.

What Is Road Grade Asphalt Called?

Road-grade asphalt is typically referred to simply as “asphalt” or “asphalt pavement” in the construction industry. It is the material used to surface and construct roads, highways, and other transportation infrastructure.

What Is the Best Grade of Asphalt?

The best grade of asphalt depends on the specific requirements of the project. Performance Grade (PG) asphalt binders are chosen based on factors like climate, traffic loads, and performance criteria. The “best” grade is the one that meets these requirements effectively.

What is the nominal maximum aggregate size?

The “nominal maximum aggregate size” refers to the largest sieve size in the aggregate specification. It is the largest particle size that can pass through the specified sieve but be retained on the next smaller sieve. In other words, it represents the upper limit of particle size for the aggregates used in concrete or asphalt mixtures.

For example, if the nominal maximum aggregate size is specified as 1 inch, it means that the largest particles in the aggregate mix should be able to pass through a 1-inch sieve but be retained on a 3/4-inch sieve. This specification is essential because it influences the workability, strength, and durability of the concrete or asphalt mixture.

Choosing the appropriate nominal maximum aggregate size depends on factors like the desired properties of the finished product, the thickness of the pavement or concrete section, and the specific requirements of the construction project. Smaller aggregate sizes are typically used for thinner pavements, while larger sizes are used for thicker sections.

What Is the Difference Between Commercial Grade Asphalt and Residential?

Commercial-grade asphalt is typically designed for high-traffic areas like parking lots and roads, focusing on durability and load-bearing capacity. Residential grade asphalt, used for driveways, emphasizes aesthetics and cost-effectiveness while still meeting residential needs.

What Is the Purpose of an Open Graded Asphalt Pavement?

The purpose of an open-graded asphalt pavement is to provide effective water drainage, reducing the risk of hydroplaning and improving skid resistance. It is commonly used in areas prone to heavy rainfall or where water management is critical.

What Standard PG Asphalt Binder Grade Example?

A standard example of a Performance Grade (PG) asphalt binder grade might be PG 64-22, where 64 represents the high-temperature performance grade, and 22 represents the low-temperature performance grade. These numbers indicate the binder’s suitability for specific conditions.

What Temperature Range Is Performance Grade Asphalt 60-20 Recommended For?

Performance Grade (PG) asphalt 60-20 is recommended for use in regions with moderate temperature ranges. The “60” indicates its high-temperature performance grade, and the “20” indicates its low-temperature performance grade, making it suitable for a variety of climates.

Why Do You Subtract 10 for Asphalt PG Grade?

Subtracting 10 from the high-temperature Performance Grade (PG) of asphalt helps determine the temperature at which the asphalt will perform adequately. For example, PG 64-22 means the asphalt can withstand high temperatures up to 64 degrees Celsius without significant deformation. In summary, asphalt comes in various grades, including Performance Grade (PG) asphalt binders for construction projects, and asphalt shingles with different grades based on their quality and performance. These grades are essential for ensuring the suitability and durability of asphalt in various applications and environments.

Methods for Quantifying Aggregate Shape

Aggregate shape characteristics like angularity, texture, and sphericity greatly impact the properties and performance of asphalt and concrete materials. Accurately measuring these shape factors allows engineering optimized mixtures. Various methods have been developed to quantify aggregate shape properties.

Visual Methods for Aggregate Shape Estimation

Visual inspection methods provide simple, inexpensive ways to estimate aggregate shape attributes. However, there is subjectivity in visual ratings. Standardized comparative charts improve consistency.

Individual Particle Visual Inspection

  • Aggregate particles are examined individually under magnification and compared to chart standards
  • The inspector assigns numerical ratings for properties like angularity, texture, and sphericity
  • Average values for a sample set characterize the overall shape

Example Rating Charts

  • The University of Illinois Aggregate Image Analyzer uses reference photos for visual ratings
  • Categories like very angular, angular, sub-rounded, and rounded help classify individual pieces
  • Quantifying percentages of each rating gives a bulk sample shape value

Pros and Cons

  • Simple and economical inspection-based approach
  • Subject to individual inspector variations and perceptual biases
  • A limited number of particles practically analyzed gives sampling uncertainty


  • Field shape screening of aggregate stockpiles
  • Basic laboratory shape analysis
  • Research shape characterization studies

Gravel Shape Rating

As an example, a gravel sample could be rated visually:

  • Angularity: 45% Very Angular, 35% Angular, 15% Subrounded, 5% Rounded
  • Texture: 40% Rough, 50% Intermediate, 10% Smooth
  • Sphericity: 10% Equant, 30% Blade, 40% Flat, 20% Elongated

Bulk Shape Property Indices

Bulk measurements gauge overall sample shape attributes versus analyzing individual particles:

Flakiness Index

  • Measures the percentage of flaky aggregate particles in a sample
  • Flaky pieces are elongated and thin flat fragments
  • Higher flakiness indicates a more problematic flaky shape

Elongation Index

  • Quantifies the percentage of excessively long, needle-like aggregate particles
  • Can be measured by dimensional ratios or optical image analysis
  • Higher elongation reduces workability and durability

Angularity Number (AN)

  • Calculates the percentage of highly angular aggregate particles
  • Angularity Number scale: 0% (highly rounded) to 100% (highly angular)
  • Higher values indicate shape more favorable for strength

L.A. Abrasion

  • Standard test aggregates measuring wear resistance during tumbling
  • High texture and angularity improve abrasion resistance
  • A lower % loss indicates shape provides greater toughness

Friction Testing

  • Measures loose aggregate friction angle or drawing resistance
  • Correlates to external surface roughness and angularity
  • Higher friction indicates more tool-preferred shape properties

Direct Particle Dimension Measurement

Directly measuring and comparing particle dimensions quantifies shape:

Length, Width, Thickness

  • Each particle’s three primary dimensions are physically measured using calipers
  • Length, width, and thickness values indicate form, flatness, and elongation
  • Statistical analysis on large sample sets characterizes the overall shape

Dimensional Ratios

  • Specific dimensional ratios mathematically indicate properties:
  • Width/Thickness = Particle Flatness
  • Length/Width = Particle Elongation
  • Largest/Smallest = Particle Sphericity

Laser Scanning

  • Highly advanced 3D laser scan data collects millions of points on a particle surface
  • Powerful software calculates dimensions, volumes, and surface area to fine precision
  • Shape quantification uses parameters like Form2D based on projected 2D images


  • Microscope image analysis with software can determine particle dimensions
  • Especially useful for fine aggregates difficult to precisely measure physically
  • 2D microscopy is limited versus 3D scanning but simpler and cheaper

Optical Image Shape Analysis

Camera-based imaging and software provide efficient, objective aggregate shape measurement:

Aggregate Image Measurements System (AIMS)

  • Uses multiple digital cameras to capture multi-perspective aggregate images
  • The software analyzes edges and spatial properties to quantify shape factors like angularity
  • Measures thousands of particles much faster than manual methods
  • Minimizes inspector subjectivity for consistent results

University of Illinois Aggregate Image Analyzer

  • Aggregates pass through front and side image capture stations
  • Custom software determines shape parameters like flatness, elongation, etc.
  • Statistical analysis provides sample-level shape characterization
  • Can integrate with crushing and production for real-time shape monitoring

Pros and Cons

  • Fast, objective, precise shape quantification
  • Expensive equipment and software investment
  • Shape factors require careful correlation to behaviors

Surface Area Measurement Methods

Surface area correlates to angularity, texture, and porosity – key drivers of shape properties:

Permeability Method

  • Measures airflow resistance through a packed aggregate sample
  • Related to the total exterior surface area contacting the airflow
  • Angular and rough particles have higher resistance and surface area


  • Evaluates the aggregate matrix’s ability to absorb and transmit water
  • Interconnected void structure relates to particle shape
  • Angular aggregates produce discontinuous voids and slower sorptivity

Methylene Blue Dye Test

  • Measures external surface area of aggregate using selective dye adsorption
  • The amount of adsorbed dye indicates the total surface area
  • Higher values equate to higher angularity and texture

Asphalt Coating Test

  • Measures asphalt binder required to fully coat a loose aggregate sample
  • Binder demand relates to particle surface area needing coverage
  • Angular and rough shapes require more asphalt

A variety of methods spanning from basic visual inspection to advanced laser scanning now exist to quantify aggregate particle shape characteristics crucial to engineering performance. Standardized application of these techniques allows scientific optimization of asphalt and concrete mixtures based on measured shape effects. In the future, improved digital image analysis and simulation technology will continue enhancing aggregate shape quantification and optimization.

What is the job mix formula?

The “Job Mix Formula” (JMF) is a critical component in the production of asphalt mixtures for road construction. It is a specific blend of various ingredients used to produce asphalt concrete that meets the required specifications for a particular construction project. The JMF includes the proportions and types of aggregates, asphalt binder, and any additives or modifiers needed to achieve the desired performance characteristics of the asphalt mixture

Effect of Particle Shape on Key Behaviors

Aggregate shape impacts major properties of asphalt and concrete:

Influence on Stiffness and Stability

Angular, rough-textured aggregates interlock when compacted, producing stiff, stable mixtures resistant to applied loads and wheel path rutting. Rounded, smooth particles provide less internal friction and are prone to displacement under loads.

Effect on Workability

Less spherical shapes increase harshness, while rounded aggregates with polished surfaces improve mixture workability, place ability, and finishing. Needle-shaped and flaky particles also hinder workability.

Role in Aggregate Interlock

Aggregates must interlock and bond with the binder to act as a cohesive skeleton providing strength. Irregular, angular aggregates increase interlock. Spherical particles cannot mechanically key together as effectively.

Contribution to Cohesion

Rougher-textured aggregates provide more surface area for binder bonding and mechanical adherence, improving cohesion. Smoothness prevents robust mastic adhesion.

Influence on Friction

Angular aggregates with rough faces and fractured edges provide essential friction resistance in pavement surfaces for skid safety. Rounded, polished rocks become slippery.

Proper quantification and optimization of aggregate particle shape is crucial to engineering durable, high-quality asphalt and concrete mixtures.

Testing Shape Properties in the Laboratory

Aggregate shape characteristics are evaluated using standardized test methods:

AASHTO T 326 – Flat and Elongated Particles

This test quantifies the percentage of flat or elongated pieces by measuring particle dimensions. Limits aim to reduce flaky aggregates.

ASTM D3398 – Percent Crushed Particles

This standard examines aggregates visually or by dimensional ratios to quantify the percentage of fully crushed, fractured vs rounded natural pieces based on counted fractions.

ASTM D5821 – Determining Percent Fractured Particles

Here, coarse aggregates are evaluated visually and categorized based on the number of crushed, fractured faces on each piece. Aggregate must meet minimums.

ASTM C1252 – Shape, Size, and Texture of Coarse Aggregate

In this test, aggregate shape, angularity, and texture are all estimated visually using comparative charts to rate coarse aggregates. Average ratings characterize samples.

AASHTO T 304 – Uncompacted Voids in Fine Aggregate

By measuring voids in loosely packed fine aggregate test specimens, this method provides an index related to particle shape, angularity, and texture.

Through rigorous, standardized laboratory testing, aggregates can be characterized and optimized to provide superior performance in asphalt and concrete mixtures.

In summary, quantifying shape, and maximizing angularity, texture, and crushed faces while minimizing flakiness and sphericity results in stable, strong, and durable composites for construction and infrastructure.

Aggregate Gradation: Grading Charts, Specifications, Examples, and Test Methods

Gradation analysis using sieve testing, grading charts, and conformity to material specifications ensures aggregates are properly sized and distributed for construction applications. This comprehensive guide covers key aspects of aggregate gradation characterization and control.

Sieve Analysis Grading Charts

Grading charts plot percent passing versus sieve size to visualize gradation:

  • Sieve testing shakes samples through stacked sieves with decreasing openings
  • Weight passing each sieve is measured and expressed as a percent of the total sample
  • Cumulative percent passing is plotted on the chart for analysis

Gradation Chart Axes

  • The X-axis shows sieve mesh sizes from largest on the left to smallest on the right
  • The Y-axis graphs the cumulative percentage passing each sieve
  • The curve shape indicates the gradation

Interpreting Gradation Curves

  • Steep slopes mean a preponderance of those particle sizes
  • Flat lines indicate a lack of particles in that size range (gap-graded)
  • Uniformly graded shows a flat line across a limited range of sizes
  • Well-graded exhibits gradual slope across a range of sizes

Example Grading Chart

Below is a sample grading chart for a coarse aggregate sample:

Sieve Size 1.5″ 1″ 3/4″ 1/2″ 3/8″ #4 #8 #16 #30 #50 #100 #200
Percent Passing 100% 90% 73% 60% 47% 31% 22% 15% 8% 4% 2% 1%
  • This represents a relatively well-graded coarse aggregate suitable for concrete

Aggregate Gradation Specifications

Graduation requirements are based on application:

Asphalt Mix Specifications

  • Set bands for percent passing key sieve sizes like 3/4”, 3/8”, No. 4, No. 30, No. 200
  • Maintain proper blends of stone, sand, and fines

Concrete Mix Specifications

  • Defines nominal maximum size like 1” or 3/4″
  • Sets percent passing high and low limits around sizes
  • ASTM C33 covers required gradations

Base and Subbase Specs

  • Open-graded specifications for drainage layers
  • Defines percent large stone, fines, and dust

Manufactured Sands

  • Tighter control of crushed fines gradation
  • Optimized for stability and workability

Example Concrete Specification

Here is a sample concrete fine aggregate specification:

Sieve Size 3/8″ #4 #8 #16 #30 #50 #100
Percent Passing 100% 95-100% 80-100% 50-85% 25-60% 5-30% 0-10%

 Specification Flexibility

  • Specification ranges allow some flexibility for local materials
  • Tighter specs require imported aggregates

Example Gradations

Different applications utilize customized aggregate gradations:

Asphalt Base Course

  • Well-graded with a range of sizes for density
  • Only fine material filters into the subgrade

Asphalt Surface Course

  • Increased fines for workability and texture
  • Reduced top size for smoothness

Concrete Sand

  • Significant fines passing #100 sieve
  • Removes fines passing #200 sieve

Pervious Concrete

  • Very open gradation with mostly one-size
  • Allows water flow through voids

Well-Graded Basecourse

Sieve 1.5″ 1″ 0.75” 0.5″ #4 #40 #200
% Passing 100% 70-80% 50-70% 35-55% 15-40% 5-20% 0-8%

Gap-Graded Asphalt

Sieve 1″ 3/4″ 1/2″ #4 #8 #200
% Passing 100% 85-100% 0-15% 0-5% 0-3% 0-2%

 Sampling and Testing Methods

Representative samples are vital for accurate gradation analysis:

Aggregate Sampling

  • Use random, stratified sampling procedures
  • Sample from multiple locations and depths
  • The minimum sample mass depends on the top aggregate size

Reducing Field Samples

  • Obtain the representative smaller testing sample
  • Quartering or riffling methods evenly split large sample

Sieving Procedure

  • Stack sieves in order of decreasing size openings
  • Shake for sufficient time with cover on
  • Weight retained on each sieve after shaking


  • Report cumulative percent retained and passing each sieve
  • Plot on grading chart for analysis

Additional Tests

  • Specific gravity, absorption, organic impurities
  • Atterberg limits, sand equivalency on fines
  • Los Angeles abrasion resistance

Proper sampling techniques and test procedures ensure accurate, reproducible gradation results essential for quality control and optimized mixtures. In my experience, I have learned that understanding aggregate particle size distribution through grading analysis is foundational to engineering asphalt and concrete materials. Sieving provides gradation data to assess conformity to specifications. Examples illustrate application-based adjustments enabling performance. With control of gradation, aggregates can be engineered to serve demanding construction needs.

Optimizing Aggregate Gradation Through Blending Stockpiles

Combining different aggregates and sizes is crucial for economically achieving gradations that deliver the required properties in asphalt and concrete. Careful blending using stockpile management provides ideal all-in gradations.

Benefits of Blending Aggregates

Blending achieves:

  • Better gradation at a lower cost
  • Reduce the need for expensive imported aggregates
  • Combine locally available materials strategically
  • Engineer overall gradation to meet specifications
  • Enhance workability, strength, appearance

For example, blending:

  • Well-graded 1” limestone
  • 3/4” crushed gravel
  • Manufactured sand

Can produce combined gradation meeting specifications from economical local materials through strategic blending percentages.

Improving Gradation for Performance

Careful control of aggregate gradation is fundamental to achieving workable, cost-effective asphalt and concrete mixtures. With the aid of advanced optimization techniques, real-time imaging, and precise testing, the construction industry can ensure that asphalt blends meet the highest performance standards while optimizing costs. The combined gradation from blending provides:


  • Range of sizes improves mixture place ability and consolidation

Optimized Density

  • Reduced voids from closely packed gradation

Strength and Stiffness

  • Broader size distribution transfers loads effectively


  • Combining aggregate colors and textures


  • Reduced imported material needs

Strategic Stockpile Management

Careful handling and management of aggregate stockpiles enables optimization:

Stockpiling Aggregates

  • Create dedicated stockpiles by aggregate type and size
  • Prevent intermixing for gradation control

Coning and Quartering

  • Form cone-shaped piles; quarter and combine for reproducibility

Testing at Stockpiles

  • Sample from multiple locations and depths
  • Assess variability within each stockpile

Blending Ratios

  • Engineer precise ratios to blend from stockpile gradations
  • May adjust based on production sampling

Computerized Control

  • Automated plant blending using aggregate image analysis and gradation sensor feedback


  • Prevent segregation and degradation during loading and transfer

Example Blending

Here is an example three-stockpile blend:

Stockpile A – 3/4” Crushed Stone

Sieve 1/2” 3/8” #4 #8
% Passing 98% 67% 2% 1%

Stockpile B – Limestone Screenings

Sieve 3/8” #4 #16 #50
% Passing 100% 90% 65% 25%

Stockpile C – Natural Sand

Sieve #4 #16 #30 #50 #100
% Passing 100% 90% 65% 15% 5%

Combined Gradation Goal

Sieve 1/2” 3/8″ #4 #8 #16 #30 #50
% Passing 100% 80% 45% 30% 25% 20% 10%

Optimal Blend

  • 40% Stockpile A
  • 35% Stockpile B
  • 25% Stockpile C

Produces combined gradation meeting goals through optimized blending of available local aggregate stockpiles.

Advanced Optimization Techniques for Aggregate Blending

Carefully controlling aggregate gradation is crucial for workable, economical asphalt and concrete mixtures. Advanced computational, simulation and automation technologies now enable optimized blending strategies and precision gradation control.

Linear Optimization Modeling

Sophisticated linear programming methods identify ideal cost-minimizing aggregate blends.


  • Powerful computational approach to complex blending problems
  • The objective function minimizes the cost
  • Constraints force compliance with gradation specs
  • The solver gives optimal blend percentages

Cost Data

  • Input accurate stockpile costs including:
    • Material purchase/production costs
    • Handling costs
    • Processing fees
    • Transportation costs

Gradation Constraints

  • Input gradation data for each stockpile
  • Specify target combined gradation criteria
    • Asphalt or concrete mix specifications
    • Percent passing key sieve sizes -Bands for acceptable gradation window

Computing Optimal Blend

  • The optimization algorithm iterates to find the lowest-cost blend that exactly meets the specifications
  • Outputs the exact percentage to blend from each stockpile

Global Optimality

  • Finds the one blend that minimizes total costs out of all possibilities
  • Not limited to local optima like manual trial-and-error

Example Scenario


  • A: Crushed gravel – $10/ton
  • B: Limestone – $15/ton
  • C: River sand – $5/ton

Gradation Goals

  • 100% passing 3/4″ sieve
  • 4-8% passing #200 sieve

Optimal Blend

  • 40% Stockpile A
  • 35% Stockpile B
  • 25% Stockpile C

Minimizes cost per ton while meeting graduation goals.

Implementing Solutions

  • Requires precise feeder calibration and control
  • Feedback monitoring is essential to matching targets
  • Adjustments made if needed

Aggregate Image-Based Gradation Control

High-speed imaging and analysis maintain gradation in real time.


  • Optically scans aggregate on the conveyor belt
  • The software analyzes individual particle shapes and size
  • Statistical gradation analysis every few minutes

Imaging Hardware

  • Digital line-scan or area-scan high-speed cameras
  • Strobe lighting for sharp images
  • Custom enclosure for the process environment

Advanced Software

  • Extracts millions of particles from images
  • Measures the size, form, and angularity of each piece
  • Rapid mathematical gradation analysis

Blending Control

  • The system monitors input gradation consistency
  • Guides variable feeder calibration for target blending
  • Adaptively adjusts on the fly


  • Real-time gradation analysis and control
  • Consistently optimized blends
  • Reduced off-spec materials
  • Automated documentation

Implementation Example

Gradation Spec

  • Target 45% passing #4 sieve
  • Allowable range: 44-46%

Image Analysis

  • Scans new quarry stockpile fed onto belt
  • Detects gradation drift to 43% passing #4

Adaptive Response

  • The controller adjusts material feeders
  • Brings gradation back on target within minutes

Gyratory Compaction Analysis

Models blend response to compaction for quality prediction.


  • Assesses blend workability via lab compaction tests
  • Gyratory compactor applies kneading action
  • Measure density curve response

Compactor Types

  • Servopac – Fully automated with pressure control
  • Linear Kneading – Versatile low-cost option

Test Parameters

  • Vertical pressure
  • Angle of gyration
  • Ram speed
  • Number of gyrations


  • Compact specimens to establish the number of gyrations
  • Determine density at each gyration stage


  • The density gain curve indicates workability
  • Steeper rise = faster densification
  • The goal is adequate density without harshness


  • Evaluate trial blends for compatibility
  • Adjust gradation to optimize the density curve
  • Predict field compaction properties

Example Analysis

Blend Option A

  • Low density even after 50 gyrations
  • Insufficient workability

Blend Option B

  • Rapid density increase in first 5 gyrations
  • Excellent workability

Discrete Element Modeling

Physics simulations predict asphalt and concrete behaviors.


  • Virtual particles interact via programmed physics
  • Mimics real aggregate motions and forces
  • Emergent behaviors from micro-interactions

Process Simulation

  • Individual aggregate particles are modeled
  • Subjected to roller/mixer forces during compaction/mixing
  • Analyze motion and stresses

Performance Simulation

  • Test virtual specimen under loads
  • Observe deformation, damage, stiffness
  • Relate to actual field performance

Gradation Manipulation

  • Adjust model blend gradation parameters
  • See the impact on key properties without physical testing


  • Requires advanced software and technical expertise
  • It has not been widely adopted yet, but research ongoing

Sample Insights

  • Optimize asphalt film thickness
  • Reduce segregation tendencies
  • Minimize permeability for water resistance
  • Enhance rutting resistance from particle interlock

Advanced blending, automation, and simulation methods offer great potential for more sustainable, economical aggregate use. However, diligent quality control is still essential to translate predictions into real-world quality and performance. The future is bright for optimizing infrastructure materials through modern gradation engineering.


Understanding, managing, and blending available aggregate stockpiles allows the creation of optimized combined gradations cost-effectively. Advanced simulation and automation tools enable precision, but diligent quality control is still essential for optimal field performance. The future offers exciting possibilities for more sustainable gradations through advanced blending.



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I'm Steve Axton, a dedicated Asphalt Construction Manager with over 25 years of experience paving the future of infrastructure. My journey with asphalt began by studying civil engineering and learning about core pavement materials like aggregate, binder and additives that compose this durable and versatile substance. I gained hands-on experience with production processes including refining, mixing and transporting during my internships, which opened my eyes to real-world uses on roads, driveways and parking lots. Over the past decades, I have deepened my expertise in asphalt properties like viscosity, permeability and testing procedures like Marshall stability and abrasion. My time with respected construction companies has honed my skills in paving techniques like milling, compaction and curing as well as maintenance activities like crack filling, resurfacing and recycling methods. I'm grateful for the knowledge I've gained about standards from Superpave to sustainability best practices that balance longevity, cost and environmental friendliness. It's been an incredibly rewarding career working with this complex material to build the infrastructure future.

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