Chemomechanics is a field of science that investigates processes and phenomena at the boundary between chemistry and mechanics. It integrates statistical thermodynamics, soft condensed-matter physics, phase transformation in solidification processes, fracture mechanics, contact mechanics, nanotechnology and materials science.
The Delft Consortium, an international effort led by the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) at Delft, The Netherlands, is applying the concepts of chemomechanics to advance understanding of cracking and healing in asphalt binder. The Consortium brings together participants from The Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, France, and the United States.
The Consortium seeks to differentiate cracking that starts in the binder from cracking related to the asphalt/aggregate mix. The Consortium will apply chemomechanical concepts of cracking and self-healing to original materials rather than to asphalt mixes. They will study the qualities of asphalts and polymers, and eventually aggregates, separately―as opposed to studying asphalt test mixtures, referred to as mastics, which are aggregate filler mixed with asphalt.
TU Delft has embraced the materials science field of self-healing materials, making it a multi-departmental effort. The modeling of asphalt self-healing at TU Delft will be closely coordinated with asphalt self-healing studies at Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. Western Research Institute will investigate and develop models to describe the behavior of asphalt binder immediately before crack formation.
The principal researchers are Dr. Tom Scarpas (TU Delft), developer of the Mechanics-Based Computational Platform for Pavement Engineering, an asphalt engineering model; Dr. Niki Kringos (TU Delft), who is engaged in asphalt modeling of moisture damage; and Troy Pauli of WRI, who is developing physico-chemistry principles of bituminous paving materials as the basis for a new petroleum chemomechanics model (science). As research progresses, graduate students from TU Delft will be introduced into the program of study.
The Delft Consortium is organized under the auspices of the International Society for Asphalt Pavements (ISAP), a professional association dedicated to the improvement of pavement performance. Government support comes from the Federal Highway Administration Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (U.S.) and the Road and Hydraulic Engineering Institute (Dienst Wag- and Waterbouwkunde), a unit of the Dutch government.
Commercial sponsors for the Delft Consortium are Nynäs Petroleum (Sweden) and the Ooms Avenhorn Groep (Netherlands), both prominent European asphalt producers, and Shell Global Solutions (Netherlands), an international consulting and service network with origins in Royal Dutch Shell/Shell Group operations and research and development.