Methods for Assessing the Polishing Characteristics of Coarse Aggregates for Use in Pavement Surface Layers

Report No: 10-CR7

Published in 2010

About the report:

The predominant aggregate resources located in the western parts of Virginia are carbonate rocks.  The mineral components of these rocks tend to be relatively soft and subject to abrasive wear under traffic that leads to a fairly rapid smoothing of the aggregate surface and the surface of pavements containing them.  This smoothing or polishing leads to a loss of surface friction and thus skid resistance of the pavement, creating potential safety issues.  As a consequence, surface courses of pavements are constructed with nonpolishing aggregates, which in the western districts can mean lengthy transport of materials.  With rising economic and environmental costs associated with transportation, increasing the use of locally available materials through improved methods to discern subtle differences in polishing tendencies or blending of polishing with nonpolishing aggregates could translate into significant cost savings.

In this study, a suite of carbonate aggregates suspected to show a range of polishing characteristics based on previous studies was selected for evaluation along with several sources currently used as nonpolishing aggregates.  The aggregates were examined petrographically, and the carbonate sources were tested for insoluble residue and subjected to a dilute acid etch to form the basis for a tentative classification of polishing susceptibility.  The aggregates were tested in the Micro-Deval apparatus using both the standard procedure for coarse aggregates and a cyclical A/P procedure with silica sand devised for this study to examine how the various aggregate types responded when subjected to various degrees of wearing under similar conditions. 

Following abrasion cycles, 2-D digital aggregate images were obtained and analyzed using specialized software to assess their morphological properties with emphasis on angularity and surface texture.  These properties were assessed before and after abrasion to determine the degree and rate of change in surface texture as well as the texture distribution within an aggregate sample.  In addition, pictures were taken of the exposed surfaces of three experimental pavement sections in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Bristol District containing carbonate rock as the fine aggregate blended with nonpolishing coarse aggregate to visually assess the effect of traffic in the last 3 years.

The carbonate rocks evaluated could be grouped according to polishing and wear tendency based on petrographic characteristics and mass loss in the Micro-Deval tests.  Although visual distinctions could be discerned, these differences were not identified statistically by the image analysis program, but factors affecting the program were identified.  A second phase of work is proposed that focuses on developing an accelerated pavement wearing protocol for assessing polishing tendencies and evaluating various mixtures of carbonate and nonpolishing aggregates.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Linbing Wang, Christian Druta, D. Stephen Lane

Last updated: November 18, 2023

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