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New bitumen analysis technique

MATERIALS Cutting Edge

SCIENTISTS at Canada's Institute for Research in Construction have developed new analytical techniques to help bitumen product producers ensure consistency.

Bitumen is an important component in many construction materials, including road surfacing and waterproof membranes, where it is blended with a polymer.This blending process can be difficult, owing to the varying chemical composition of bitumen.

Although methods already exist to analyse this composition, IRC scientists have developed a technique that dispenses with the use of expensive solvents.

Their new method measures the temperature at which a material turns to ash to indicate the mixture of light, medium and heavy hydrocarbons in the bitumen.

Because different hydrocarbons burn off at different temperatures, researchers can determine the composition of a sample by monitoring changes in its mass and the temperatures at which these changes occur.

This 'thermogravity'method has been used to characterise petroleum products in the past but the IRC technique boosts the accuracy of the results through the use of research-grade equipment and a patented algorithm.

The method could also be used to test emulsions, paints or plastics, IRC scientists claim.