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A Practical Comparison of Commercially Distributed Asphalt Products

Updated on August 27, 2009

A Practical Comparison of Commercially Distributed Asphalt Products

The proliferation of road bed technology imposes stresses on civil engineers as they design new highway infrastructures. This treatise introduces practical comparisons of commercially available asphalt products as a possibility of reducing the effort required to identify proper applications for commercially distributed asphalt products, Asphalt equipment production, being driven by the demand and instantiation of asphalt-based projects, is also an integral component of paved surface technology.



Commercially distributed asphalt products generally break down into 2 categories; high-strength malleable consistencies (also referred to as "Northern" surfaces) and composite legacy petroleum based products known as "Eastern" surfaces. Both types are commonly referred to as American Asphalt when used in America. We will not debate the veracity of the colloquial names that have grown up around each product family. Obviously the history of each type of asphalt usually places it square in one or the other category. Enough has already been written on this topic to the extent that any additional clarification can only result in obfuscation.

For the purposes of this treatise we will refer to "North", or "East" compositions to improve brevity.


As commonly perceived, North-style commercially available distributed  asphalt products perform well in linear applications involving low levels of external particulates, such as driveway maintenance. Typical road-bed construction in temperate climates obligate consideration for North-style products. Excessive heat, ambient pressure, and certain well-identified and well-understood lane marking materials have historically proven problematic for North-style multiple lane modal transportation implementations.

Conversely, and also incidentally, East-style asphalt applications generally manifest through linear applications and low to medium levels of external particulates. The generic 'asphalt road' readily comes to mind. Consideration must be given to high-speed orthogonal transport expectations, which rarely (if ever) are recognized as an issue when a North-style asphalt is deployed.


Production lead times historically become problematic only in advanced applications of North-style asphalt roll-outs.  Given that North-style asphalt composition includes trace materials produced in narrow horizontal markets scattered in facilities on several continents, this is not surprising. Comparatively, East-Style retail asphalt products products offer ready availability. Among experienced civil engineers and city planners, a popular saying is "East is on every corner". Of course, this is not a reference to points on a compass, rather to the egalitarian proliferation of East-style road surfacing products and supplies.

Physical Properties

Both styles of commercially distributed asphalt products discussed in this treatise provide similar characteristics of modularity, elasticity, surface tension, and molecular adhesion at the vehicle/road surface interface.

Special care should be given when calculating pressure points for orthogonal intersection applications. Historically, neither type of asphalt (North-style or East-style) adapts particularly well to high stress speed reduction requirements. Unfortunately the envelope calculations for determining upper and lower limits for either style are excessively complex and cannot be presented here.


Both styles of commercially available asphalt, North-style and East-style, offer the result of rigorous scientific evaluation and refinement over the long history of paved surface engineering.


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    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Yeah, write!

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @The Old Firm: Sometimes we writers wonder wistfully if anyone truly understands and/or appreciates our output. Your feedback finalizes the feeling that someone's out there, that someone cares, that someone is benefiting from what I sometimes consider to be nothing but idle scrathings.


    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      This long awaited discussion fills a pressing void in the path of American discovery. I cannot adequately express my gratitude to you for the insight that this has given me on my road to enlightenment, and await with baited breath your next cornerstone monograph, as I am sure is the rest of humanity.

      Bless you my son.