Field and theoretical evaluation of thermal fatigue cracking in flexible pavements

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Conference Proceeding

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Thermal cracking in flexible pavement occurs when the tensile stress exceeds the tensile strength of hot-mix asphalt at a given temperature or when fluctuating stresses and strains caused by temperature variation lead to a buildup of irrecoverable deformations over time. The objective of this study was twofold: (a) to quantify the measured strain magnitude associated with thermal fatigue through field measurements and (b) to present a three-dimensional, finite element (FE) model that accurately simulated thermal fatigue in flexible pavement. Results of the experimental program indicated that pavement response to thermal loading was associated with a high strain range, reaching a maximum recorded value of 350 μm/m. This finding confirms the hypothesis that the criticality of thermal fatigue arises from the high stress-strain level exhibited in each cycle rather than its frequency, which is usually the critical factor in load-associated fatigue cracking. Moreover, the developed FE model accurately simulated pavement response to thermal loading by conducting a sequential coupled heat transfer analysis. Results of the developed FE model were in agreement with field measurements and demonstrated the model's capability to simulate both the temperature and stress fields associated with thermal loading. This model may be used to evaluate pavement performance against transverse cracking induced by thermal fatigue.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Transportation Research Record

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