Aging effects on asphalt adhesive properties: molecular dynamics simulation of chemical composition and structural changes

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Asphalt aging is a natural process that causes changes in the properties of asphalt, particularly in asphalt adhesion. Previous studies show that the effect of aging on asphalt adhesion performance is not uniform and depends on the asphalt source and aging conditions. To investigate the effects of different SARA (saturates, aromatics, resins, and asphaltenes) ratios and structural changes on the adhesive properties of asphalt after aging, this study employs molecular dynamics simulation to calculate asphalt properties such as density, viscosity, and work of adhesion. The above properties were computed for 12 categories of asphalt molecules, individual SARA components, and asphalt models characterised by diverse SARA ratios, followed by a correlation analysis. The study reveals that asphalt aging increases density, viscosity, and adhesion to silica. The increase in polar functional groups, namely ketone and sulfoxide, is responsible for the enhanced adhesion of asphalt to silica due to the resulting increase in electrostatic potential energy. Different SARA ratios lead to different asphalt properties, with the RA/SA index ((asphaltene%+resin%)/(saturate% + aromatic%)) showing a better correlation with the properties. Positive correlations were observed among density, viscosity, and work of adhesion. This study advances our understanding of chemical and structural effects on aged asphalt properties.

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Molecular Simulation