Particle Shape and Surface Texture

Aggregate particle shape and surface texture are important for proper compaction, deformation resistance, and workability. However, the ideal shape for HMA and PCC is different because aggregates serve different purposes in each material. In HMA, since aggregates are relied upon to provide stiffness and strength by interlocking with one another, cubic angular-shaped particles with a rough surface texture are best. However, in PCC, where aggregates are used as an inexpensive high-strength material to occupy volume, workability is the major issue regarding particle shape. Therefore, in PCC rounded particles are better. Relevant particle shape/texture characteristics are discussed below.

Particle Shape

Rounded particles create less particle-to-particle interlock than angular particles and thus provide better workability and easier compaction. However, in HMA less interlock is generally a disadvantage as rounded aggregate will continue to compact, shove and rut after construction. Thus angular particles are desirable for HMA (despite their poorer workability), while rounded particles are desirable for PCC because of their better workability (although particle smoothness will not appreciably affect strength) (PCA, 1988[1]).

Flat or Elongated Particles

These particles tend to impede compaction or break during compaction and thus, may decrease strength.

Smooth-Surfaced Particles

These particles have a lower surface-to-volume ratio than rough-surfaced particles and thus may be easier to coat with binder. However, in HMA asphalt tends to bond more effectively with rough-surfaced particles, and in PCC rough-surfaced particles provide more area to which the cement paste can bond. Thus, rough-surface particles are desirable for both HMA and PCC.

Test Methods

There are several common tests used to identify and quantify aggregate particle shape and surface texture. Among the most popular are:

Other tests, using automated machines equipped with video cameras and lasers are under development.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Portland Cement Association (PCA).  (1988).  Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures.  Portland Cement Association.  Skokie, IL.