2D Mesoscale cracking simulation of partially saturated asphalt based on moisture diffusion and a cohesive zone model

Linglin Li, Ji Wu, Nick Thom, David Hargreaves, Gordon Airey, Ahmed Abed, Mujib Rahman, Zhen Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The primary objective of this paper was to develop a combined model that incorporates moisture diffusion and a cohesive zone model, addressing anisotropic and loading-rate dependent cracking within partially saturated asphalt. Utilising X-ray CT scan, cross-sectional slices of asphalt were acquired and converted into vector images through Matlab and AutoCAD, forming a digital asphalt sample. Moisture concentration in the asphalt, after different immersion durations, was quantified by Fick's law. A sequentially coupled model of moisture diffusion and fracture investigated the effect of immersion duration, anisotropy, and loading rate on cracking performance of the asphalt during a digital indirect tensile strength test (DITST) at 5°C. Findings revealed that moisture evolution in partially saturated asphalt proceeds through two or three stages: near-zero growth (only applicable for locations far from the initial moisture-asphalt interface), rapid growth, and a plateau. Peak load, stiffness, and fracture work in DITST exponentially reduced with immersion duration, predominantly within the first four weeks. Anisotropy led to differential DITST results when varying loading direction. Moisture damage decreased crack resistance across all directions, while increasing loading rate enhanced it. Fracture stiffness and strength exhibited comparable impacts on cracking performance at a specific loading rate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2242557
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Pavement Engineering
Issue number1
Early online date5 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

Funding: This work was supported by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council: [Grant Number EP/T019506/1]; National Natural Science Foundation of China: [Grant Number 51978229].


  • Asphalt
  • cracking
  • cohesive zone model
  • moisture diffusion


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