Apparent Molecular Weight Distributions in Bituminous Binders

Materials (Basel). 2022 Jul 5;15(13):4700. doi: 10.3390/ma15134700.


Molecular weight distributions are widely used to evaluate the effects of aging or modifiers in bituminous binders. As with polymers, the most common techniques to obtain the distributions can be subdivided into two main groups, depending on whether or not they use a solvent. In the first group, the dimension of the molecules is evaluated in a diluted unperturbed state, while, in the second, the dimension derives from the bulk, where aggregated or interacting molecules may behave as single entities. However, the calibration curves used in the bulk are tuned in order to homogenize the results derived from the two approaches. This sort of contradiction, plus the high number of experimental uncertainties, suggest that the term "apparent" should be used for both distributions. These aspects are well known in the field of polymers but have received less attention in the case of bitumens, which are even more complex. This paper pinpoints the advantages and disadvantages of the two techniques, thus highlighting the most appropriate use. Bulk methods are preferred when evaluating properties that are strictly dependent on the microstructure, such as the level of aging and the effects of additives or modifiers. Diluted methods should be used when the molecular size matters, such as in quantifying the presence of polymers or rejuvenators. Both techniques should be used for comparative studies only.

Keywords: apparent molecular weight distribution; bitumen; delta method; gel permeation chromatography; linear viscoelastic functions.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.