Molecular dynamics investigation of interfacial adhesion between oxidised bitumen and mineral surfaces

Yangming Gao, Yuqing Zhang, Yang Yang, Junhui Zhang, Fan Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interfacial adhesion between oxidised bitumen and mineral surfaces at dry and wet conditions was investigated using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Molecular models were built for virgin and oxidised bitumen components including saturate, aromatic, resin and asphaltenes. The bitumen models and four representative mineral substrates (namely quartz, calcite, albite and microcline) were employed to construct bitumen-mineral interface systems. These models were validated by the experimental results and MD simulations reported in the literature. The hardening mechanism of the aged bitumen was analysed by comparing the density, cohesive energy density and fraction of free volume between the virgin and oxidised bitumen. Work of adhesion was computed to quantify the adhesive bonding property of the bitumen-mineral interface systems for the virgin, lightly oxidised and heavily oxidised bitumen models under dry and wet conditions. Results show that the oxidised products (carbonyl and sulfoxide) strengthen the intermolecular bonding, resulting in molecular aggregation and physical hardening of the aged bitumen. When bitumen becomes oxidised at the dry condition, the interfacial adhesion of bitumen-acidic minerals (quartz) is dominated by van der Waals interaction which decreases due to the increased bitumen-quartz intermolecular distance caused by the aggregated bitumen molecules during aging. In comparison, the interfacial adhesion of bitumen-strong alkali minerals (albite and microcline) is dominated by electrostatic energy which increases due to higher polarity introduced by the oxidised products. For the bitumen-weak alkali mineral (calcite), the interfacial adhesion is attributed to both electrostatic energy and van der Waals energy, where compared to the virgin bitumen, the electrostatic energy becomes lower for the lightly-oxidised bitumen due to the increased bitumen-mineral distance but becomes higher for the heavily-oxidised bitumen due to higher polarity. At wet condition, water is the dominating factor that affects (weakens) the interfacial adhesion between the bitumen and the acidic minerals (quartz), and the oxidative aging of bitumen is the major factor that affects (strengthens) the interfacial adhesion between the bitumen and the strongly alkaline minerals (albite and microcline). For the weak alkali minerals such as calcite, both water and bitumen aging can significantly affect the interfacial adhesion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-462
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Surface Science
Early online date14 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

Funding: The authors acknowledge the financial support provided by Aston University via a PhD studentship and by European Union's Horizon 2020 programme via a Marie S. Curie Individual Fellowship project (Grant No. 749232-AMAM).


  • Bitumen aging
  • Interfacial adhesion
  • Mineral surfaces, molecular dynamics
  • Oxidised bitumen
  • Water damage


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