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Road Materials and Pavement Design

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State of the art review on design and performance

of microsurfacing

Nishant Bhargava, Anjan Kumar Siddagangaiah & Teiborlang L. Ryntathiang

To cite this article: Nishant Bhargava, Anjan Kumar Siddagangaiah & Teiborlang L. Ryntathiang
(2019): State of the art review on design and performance of microsurfacing, Road Materials and
Pavement Design, DOI: 10.1080/14680629.2019.1607771

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Published online: 23 Apr 2019.

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Road Materials and Pavement Design, 2019

State of the art review on design and performance of microsurfacing

Nishant Bhargava , Anjan Kumar Siddagangaiaha and Teiborlang L. Ryntathianga
a Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, Guwahati, India

(Received 29 August 2018; accepted 2 April 2019 )

Over the years, microsurfacing had gained popularity owing to the effectiveness, economic
and environmental benefits as a pavement preventive maintenance treatment. The review
study explores the merits and demerits of mix design procedures along with modifications
suggested by various studies. Subsequently, studies on the performance of microsurfacing
had been extensively reviewed and significant parameters contributing to variation in perfor-
mance were identified. Literature review indicated that the microsurfacing mix design, unlike
conventional hot mix asphalt, was complicated due to chemically controlled curing system
and additional components involving microsurfacing production. Despite simple test proce-
dures, most commonly adopted mix design parameters such as mixing and setting time, and
torque-measurements exhibit operator specific variability in test results. In order to overcome
such issues, mechanical modifications for mixing and automated measurements of parame-
ter values were proposed by several researchers. Laboratory investigations on microsurfacing
performance highlighted that the inclusion of process control parameters and environmental
conditions to mimic field conditions could further improve the evaluation of microsurfacing
durability. In terms of field performance, even though microsurfacing contribute to road safety,
issues related to noise and reflective cracking would require further research for better under-
standing and possible solutions. Hence, the evaluation of synergistic influence of parameters
on microsurfacing performance by simulating production and environmental conditions in a
laboratory would allow better quantification of the associated failures and help to find probable
Keywords: Microsurfacing; mix design; quality control; construction factors; variability

1. Introduction
Microsurfacing is a preventive maintenance technology which involves application of a mix-
ture of polymer modified emulsion, dense-graded mineral aggregate, mineral filler, water, and
additives (if any) at ambient temperature. Microsurfacing, an improvement to slurry seal, allow
treatment application in multiple layers and provide higher strength (Raza, 1992; Reinke, Ballou,
Engber, & O’Connell, 1990; Smith, Beatty, Button, Stacy, & Andrews, 1994). It is typically used
to address issues related to skid resistance, ravelling, oxidation and/or rutting on a structurally
sound pavement (États-Unis, 1992; Gransberg, 2010; Raza, 1994; Van Dam et al., 2015). The
effective service life of microsurfacing varies from 5 to 7 years depending on time of application
and condition of pavement structure (Gransberg, 2010; Wu, Groeger, Simpson, & Hicks, 2010;
Ozer, Ziyadi, & Faheem, 2018). However, microsurfacing does not contribute to improvement in
the structural adequacy of the pavement structure (Gransberg, 2010; Kazmierowski & Bradbury,

*Corresponding author. Email:

© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

2 N. Bhargava et al.

Nevertheless, ensuring the compatibility among mix ingredients and satisfying the strength
and durability parameters are the primary mix design objectives (Gransberg, 2010). In this
regard, various mix designs procedures had been developed to obtain an optimum job mix for-
mula out of which the most commonly adopted mix design protocol is provided by International
Slurry Seal Association (ISSA). However, various researchers have reported the challenges with
the existing mix design processes like repeatability and reproducibility of test results and poor
correlation between field and laboratory results (Andrews, 1994; Raza, 1994; Robati, 2014; Wu,
2015). Hence, modification to current mix design procedure might be necessary for enhancing
reproducibility and better correlation of laboratory investigation with field application.
After obtaining the job mix formula, the next step is the implementation of microsurfacing mix
in field. In general, the construction of microsurfacing on a structurally sound pavement involves
cleaning of the surface, application of tack coat (optional), sealing of cracks and spreading of
homogeneous, stable microsurfacing mix at a pre-defined application rate. It is important to note
that the cracks on the pavement surface wider than 6.4 mm should be treated using sealant with
sufficient time being provided for the sealant to cure before application of microsurfacing. In
addition, providing adequate construction joints and ensuring acceptable edges are also vital for
successful microsurfacing performance (ISSA A143, 2010).
The critical elements for ensuring adequate field performance of microsurfacing mix are mate-
rial quality, mix design and systematic quality control by experienced team during execution
(Kazmierowski & Bradbury, 1995). In addition, the field performance of microsurfacing mix is
highly influenced by resistance to compaction after curing and initial consolidation by traffic.
Laboratory investigations in this regard would provide much-needed information to incorporate
adjustments according to the field conditions.
The main focus of this review is to explore the mix design practices for ensuring a durable
microsurfacing mix and highlighting the merits and demerits of the test procedures. Further, the
modifications suggested by researchers and methodology suitable for minimising variability in

Figure 1. Review methodology.

Road Materials and Pavement Design 3

test results are critically reviewed. In addition, laboratory and field investigations on microsur-
facing performances are extensively reviewed and the parameters influencing performance are
determined. An outline of the review methodology adopted is presented in Figure 1. In clo-
sure, the predominant failure, their causes and associated solutions are discussed. Future areas
of investigations are also proposed, which could help to perform in-depth analysis on design and
performance parameters influencing the durability of microsurfacing mix.

2. Components of microsurfacing mix and related technologies

Microsurfacing mix consists of polymer-modified emulsion, mineral aggregate, mineral filler,
water, and additives (if any). Since the performance is significantly influenced by the quality of
materials used, understanding the behaviour and the parameters influencing properties of each
component is critical for ensuring durability of microsurfacing mix.

2.1. Emulsion
Emulsion is a two-phase system with asphalt and water as the dispersed phase and continu-
ous phase, respectively. The components typically used for the manufacturing of emulsion are
asphalt, water, emulsifier, additives, solvents, adhesion promoters and either calcium chloride or
sodium chloride (Baughman, 2016; Hunter, Self, & Read, 2015; James, 2006).
The properties of asphalt play a critical role in production of stable emulsion (Habeeb, Chan-
dra, & Nashaat, 2014; MS-19, 1997). Polymer modification of asphalt allows thicker sections,
effective for rut filling, reduce temperature susceptibility and aggregate loss, improve elas-
tic and flow properties, adhesion and cohesion properties and cracking and rutting resistance
(Broughton & Lee, 2012; Gransberg, 2010; Hogendoorn, 2016; Smith et al., 1994). Water is the
second ingredient of emulsion with the stability of emulsion being affected by the minerals or
other matter present in water (MS-19, 1997). Next, emulsifying agent or emulsifier, are large
organic molecules with head and tail portion being hydrophilic (water-soluble) and lipophilic
(oil-soluble) respectively (James, 2006). Emulsifier lowers the surface tension by preferential
adsorption at asphalt surface (Baumgardner, 2006).
Additional components including hydrocarbon solvents and fluxes like fuel oil or kerosene
are used to improve emulsification and rate of curing at lower temperature, reduce viscosity of
emulsion residue and provide workability to microsurfacing mix. Moreover, additives and salts
are used to improve storage stability and control viscosity changes by reducing osmosis of water
into asphalt (Hogendoorn, 2016; James, 2006).
Cationic emulsions are most commonly manufactured worldwide. It is generally in neutral
basic form and needs to be reacted with an acid (generally HCl) to make it water soluble and
positively charged (cationic) in nature (Baumgardner, 2006; Hunter et al., 2015). Usually, the pH
range for cationic emulsion is between 2 and 3 (Hunter et al., 2015). The parameters influencing
manufacturing of emulsion includes dispersion energy, particle size distribution, asphalt viscosity
and temperature and emulsion temperature (Baumgardner, 2006). In microsurfacing, the quality
tests for emulsion adopted by various agencies are shown in Table 1.

2.1.1. Breaking and curing of emulsion

In microsurfacing, the breaking and curing process involves the adsorption of free emulsifier to
aggregate surface which makes the surface lipophilic and pH rises. Then, asphalt droplets floccu-
late due to loss of charge on the droplets and neutralisation of acids. Finally, the water evaporates
after which displacement of water film on lipophilic aggregate surface leads to formation asphalt
4 N. Bhargava et al.

Table 1. Quality tests on emulsion and emulsion residue.

Tests on emulsion ISSAa ASTMb Indiac Texasd

Viscosity, Saybolt Furol at 25°C, SFS 20–100 20–100 20–100 20–100

Viscosity, Rotational Paddle Viscometer at 25°C, mPa s 45–220 40–250
Particle Charge test Positive Positive Positive Positive
Sieve test, % max 0.1 0.05 0.1
Settlement and storage stability, % max
24 h 1 2
168 h 4
Distillation of asphalt emulsion, % min 62 57 62
Residue by evaporation, % min 60
Coagulation of emulsion at low temperature Nil
Tests on emulsion residue
Ductility, 25°C, 5 cm/minute, cm min 40 40 50 70
Solubility in trichloroethylene, % min 97.5 97.5 97 97
Softening point of asphalt, °C min 57 57 57.2
Penetration of asphalt (25°C) 40–90 40–90 40–100 55–90
Elastic recovery, % 50 min 5–60
a ISSA A143 (2010).
b ASTM D6372 (2015).
c IRC SP: 81 (2008).
d TxDOT (2014).

coating on aggregate surface (James, 2006). The factors influencing the breaking and curing rates
includes the asphalt content, type and quantity of emulsifier, pH of aqueous solution, aggregate
type and gradation, surface chemistry, aggregate water absorption and moisture content, parti-
cle size distribution of asphalt droplets, mechanical forces, environmental conditions including
wind speed, temperature and humidity and the use of breaking agents (Hogendoorn, 2016; Hunter
et al., 2015; MS-19, 1997).

2.1.2. Emulsion performance

The vital physical properties of the produced emulsion are stability and viscosity (Ibrahim, 1998).
Stability of emulsion is generally characterised by properties such as creaming or sedimentation,
coalescence between drops and flocculation of drops or phase separation (Borwankar, Lobo, &
Wasan, 1992). On the other hand, emulsion viscosity refers to the resistance to flow of emul-
sion which affects the asphalt film thickness and workability of emulsion (ASTM D7496, 2018).
Several factors influence emulsion stability and viscosity including asphalt particle size, tem-
perature, acid content, emulsifier type and content and viscosity of asphalt (Baughman, 2016;
Gorman, Crawford, & Harding, 2004; Hunter et al., 2015; Ronald & Luis, 2016).

2.2. Aggregate
Aggregates are the mineral materials accounting for major volume of the microsurfacing mix
(Gransberg, 2010). Crushed stone like granite, limestone, sandstone or high-quality aggregates
are used (Broughton & Lee, 2012; ISSA A143, 2010) with crushing operations to be conducted
on single source for microsurfacing application (Broughton & Lee, 2012). The quality tests for
aggregates along with aggregate gradation adopted by various agencies are shown in Tables 2
and 3, respectively.
Road Materials and Pavement Design 5

Table 2. Quality tests for aggregates.

Test ISSAa ASTMb Indiac Caltransd Texase Australiaf

Sand Equivalent Value, min 65 65 50 70 65 60

Aggregate soundness, % max
Na2 SO4 15 15 12
MgSO4 25 25 18 25
LA Abrasion, % max 30 30 35 30 30
Water Absorption, % max 2
Durability Index, % min 65
Crushed particles, % min 95 95
Acid Insoluble, % min 55
Degradation factor, % min 50
Aggregate wet strength, kN min 150
Wet/Dry strength variation, % max 30
Polished aggregate friction value, min 45
a ISSA A143 (2010).
b ASTM D6372 (2015).
c IRC SP: 81 (2008).
d Caltrans (2009).
e TxDOT (2014).
f Patrick (2018).

Table 3. Aggregate gradation for microsurfacing mix.

ISSAa Texasb Georgiac Indiad Australiae

Sieve Size (mm) Type II Type III Type I Type II Type II Type III Size 5 Size 7

9.50 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
6.70 100 85–100
6.30 100 90–100
4.75 90–100 70–90 86–94 90–100 60–95 90–100 70–90 90–100 70–90
2.36 65–90 45–70 45–65 65–90 45–75 65–90 45–70 50–70 45–70
1.18 45–70 28–50 25–46 45–70 28–50 30–50 28–50
0.60 30–50 19–34 15–35 30–50 19–34 20–35 19–34
0.30 18–30 12–25 10–25 20–45 15–35 18–30 12–25 12–25 12–25
0.15 10–21 7–18 7–18 10–21 7–18 7–18 7–18
0.075 5–15 5–15 5–15 5–15 5–15 5–15 5–15 4–10 5–15
a ISSA A143 (2010).
b TxDOT (2014).
c GDOT (2013).
d IRC SP: 81 (2008).
e Patrick (2018).

Aggregate characteristics for microsurfacing is critical due to its fast-setting characteristics

(Hicks, Dunn, & Moulthrop, 1997). Several key characteristics of aggregates needs to be assessed
for better performance including geology; shape and texture; age; reactivity; cleanliness; sound-
ness; and abrasion (Caltrans, 2009; Gransberg, 2010). Wu, Yu, and Tan (2011) found that the
water damage was dependent on the cleanliness of mineral aggregates. Methylene blue value
(MBV) test is recommended for assessing cleanliness and predicting performance (Wu et al.,
2011). Additionally, aggregate gradation (Gransberg, 2010) and moisture content also influence
the performance where it is recommended to cover aggregate stockpile to avoid detrimental
6 N. Bhargava et al.

effects of pre-wetting moisture on the mix performance (Smith et al., 1994). European stan-
dard (BS EN, 12273, 2008) recommend to use polished stone value to ensure durability of
microsurfacing skidding resistance.

2.3. Mineral filler

Mineral filler, generally Portland cement (IRC SP: 81, 2008), greatly influences the performance
of the microsurfacing mixture (Gransberg, 2010; Smith et al., 1994). The evaporable water from
emulsion mixture is consumed by mineral filler for hydration and accelerating the breaking
mechanism (García, Lura, Partl, & Jerjen, 2013). Mineral filler is primarily used for increas-
ing the stiffness of mastic, minimising segregation, enhancing resistance to fracture and crack
propagation, improving consistency and adjusting breaking and curing properties (ISSA A143,
2010; Little & Petersen, 2005; Raza, 1994). The properties of filler including size, shape, surface
area and particle distribution influence the stiffening effect of asphalt-filler mastic (Robati, 2014;
Smith et al., 1994).
Robati, Carter, and Perraton (2015) described the filler-mastic interaction as a critical param-
eter for cohesion development with the higher stiffening rate representing faster cohesion
development. The filler-stiffening rate is dependent on pH of filler, zeta potential and MBV,
where basic filler, higher zeta potential, and higher MBV demonstrate higher stiffening rate.
Also, minimum and maximum filler concentration are established corresponding to stiffness gain
initiation and maximum stiffness of mastic, respectively.

2.4. Water
Water is introduced into microsurfacing mix in three ways, i.e. moisture present in aggregate,
mixing water and water present in emulsion (Raza, 1994). The primary purpose of water is
to wet, dissolve and adhere to other components and moderate the chemical reaction (MS-19,
1997; Smith et al., 1994). Hence, the water used for microsurfacing should be compatible with
other components (Patrick, 2018). In addition, the use of potable water free of harmful salts and
contaminants is recommended for microsurfacing application (ISSA A143, 2010; Smith et al.,
The factors influencing the water content required are moisture content in aggregates, temper-
ature, relative humidity and amount of moisture absorbed by pavement surface (Smith & Beatty,
1999). Hence, considering the above-mentioned factors, field adjustments to water content is
recommended to keep total fluidity constant for achieving desirable consistency (Smith et al.,

3. Microsurfacing mix design

In microsurfacing, every formulation laid down is a chemical system which is affected by several
variables including emulsion and aggregate type, aggregate gradation, water and emulsion con-
tent along with mineral filler and additives used. Hence, an empirical approach for analysing the
laboratory samples to field simulated tests under project-specific conditions become critical for
the assessment of microsurfacing mix design (Andrews, 1994). In this regard, several mix design
procedures have been developed by several agencies like ISSA (ISSA A143, 2010), American
Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) (ASTM D6372, 2015), Texas Transportation Institute
(TTI) (Smith et al., 1994), California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) (Caltrans, 2010),
Indian Roads Congress (IRC) (IRC SP: 81, 2008) and Australian specifications (Patrick, 2018).
In European practices, tests like consistency, cohesion, abrasion loss and shaking abrasion tests
Road Materials and Pavement Design 7

have been recommended for determining job mix formula (BS EN, 12273, 2008; BS EN, 12274-
3, 2002; BS EN 12774-4, 2003; BS EN, 12274-5, 2003; BS EN, 12274-7, 2005). In the mix
design procedure, optimum job mix formula is obtained using specified test sequences shown in
Figure 2 (ISSA A143, 2010). A brief description of the test procedures along with the significance
of each test are summarised in Table 4 (Andrews, 1994; ISSA A143, 2010).

Figure 2. Microsurfacing mix design process as per ISSA.

Table 4. Significance of tests on microsurfacing.

Test Description Significance

Mixing time test Adequate formulation providing mixing Establishing formulation and verifying
time within range of 120–300 s is initial compatibility
Consistency test Water content providing outflow of Determination of optimum amount of
2.5 cm is determined water
Compatibility test Description of compatibility using split Assessment of mutual compatibility of
consistency, split cup compatibility aggregates
and adhesion of mix
Cohesion test Set time and early rolling traffic is Provides minimum mineral filler
defined as a function of torque content
Wet track abrasion Evaluation of internal mat adhesion and Determination of minimum asphalt
1-hour soak resistance to aggregate loss due to content
mechanical abrasion
Wet track abrasion Assessment of moisture susceptibility
6-day soak
Loaded Wheel Test Traffic simulation of resistance to Determination of maximum asphalt
deformation and flushing under content
heavy loads
Schulze-Breuer and Aggregate passing 2 mm sieve and Assessment of emulsion affinity to
Ruck Test mineral filler compatibility with aggregate filler
emulsion tested.
8 N. Bhargava et al.

3.1. Material selection and characterisation

The first step in microsurfacing mix design is to assess the quality of aggregates and emulsion
used in its production. In addition to quality tests mentioned in Tables 12–3, performance-related
specifications are also explored by researchers to address constructability of microsurfacing in
terms of stability of emulsion and its mixing ability with aggregates. The rutting and thermal
cracking resistance of microsurfacing were also explored using multiple stress creep and recovery
test and frequency sweep test on emulsion residue, respectively (Ilias, Adams, Castorena, & Kim,

3.2. Theoretical binder content determination

For a job mix formula, the theoretical binder content is initially determined using the surface
area method as per ISSA TB No. 118 (2005). The procedure involves evaluation of surface
area of bitumen (SAB) using corrected surface area (CSA) of aggregates (Equation (1)) and rec-
ommended asphalt film thickness (t) of 8 μm as shown in Equation (2). Then, kerosene absorbed
(KA) is calculated from centrifuge kerosene equivalent test on 100 g aggregates passing 4.75 mm
sieve. In this test, the aggregate sample is centrifuged for 2 min, and the KA is determined in
terms of percent of dry aggregate weight as shown in Equation (3). The total bitumen required
(BR) is then computed by adding SAB and KA (BR = SAB + KA).

CSA = SA × 2.65/Gsa (1)

SAB = CSAm2 /kg × t × 0.09996 × Gb (2)
Wac − Wbc
KA = × 100 (3)
where Gsa and Gb represent the apparent specific gravity of aggregates and specific gravity of
asphalt binder, respectively; t is the asphalt film thickness; Wac , Wbc are the weight of sample
and container after and before centrifuge and Ws is the dry weight of the aggregate sample.
Alternatively, centrifuge kerosene equivalent test (ASTM D5148, 2010) can also be adopted for
approximate binder content assessment.

3.3. Mix and set time test

The trial formulation from Section 3.2 is then evaluated using mix and set time test (ISSA TB No.
113, 2017). In this test, 100–400 g of dried aggregate is mixed with desirable amount of mineral
filler, water and liquid additive until uniform distribution. Subsequently, emulsion is added and
mixed thoroughly and mix and set time are assessed visually by the operator.
In microsurfacing, it is essential to maintain adequate mixing time in order to avoid premature
breaking of emulsion. But, despite simple test procedure, mixing test has shown high variabil-
ity because of difference in hand mixing from one operator to another and subjective nature of
breaking and setting time assessment. Therefore, to overcome the problem, Caltrans (2010) rec-
ommended carrying out mixing using an automated motor and measuring variation of viscosity
(torque) with time to assess mix and spreadability indices. In automated mixing test, the mixing
time is defined as the amount of time during which there is no significant increase in the torque
value, i.e. the torque-time plot is relatively flat. On the other hand, the amount of time taken by
the mix to reach the value of 12 N-cm from mixing torque is termed as spread time (Caltrans,
2010). In addition, IRC and ASTM (ASTM D6372, 2015; IRC SP: 81, 2008) proposed the use
of paper blot method to examine set time. In this test, the sample is allowed to cure for 15 min
at 25 ± 1°C after which a white paper towel/tissue is lightly pressed on the surface at every 15
Road Materials and Pavement Design 9

min interval. Minimum set time is defined as the time at which no stain could be observed on

3.4. Consistency test

In the next step, optimum water content is determined using the consistency test (ISSA TB NO.
106, 2015) to evaluate the workability and segregation potential of microsurfacing mix. In the
consistency test, a cone of 75 mm height and diameter of 40 and 90 mm at top and bottom, respec-
tively, is placed on a flow scale. Then, the sample is prepared by mixing 400 g dried aggregate
with defined amount of water, mineral filler and additive. Emulsion is added to the sample and
mixed thoroughly for 30 s. The homogeneous mixture is then poured into the cone and the excess
material is struck off. Immediately, with a smooth vertical motion, the cone is removed and the
sample is allowed to flow freely. The outflow is then measured at 4 points 90° apart and the
average of the 4 values is termed as the consistency.
It is important to note that the water content of aggregates obtained from the consistency test
can have both beneficial and detrimental effect on the mix performance based on the aggregate
type used (MS-19, 1997). In case of high-water content, the binder affinity towards an aggregate
surface significantly reduces, whereas poor coating is associated with low water content (Smith
et al., 1994). Hence, for incorporating field conditions, varying temperature (10°C, 25°C and
50°C) for optimum water content determination was proposed by Caltrans (2010). However, the
inability of the consistency test to provide adequate results for quick set system, quick traffic
system is a major drawback. In this regard, Smith et al. (1994) recommended use of modified
cup flow test for determination of optimum water content. The test includes the preparation of
sample in 590 ml cup which is then inverted on 15° inclined plane. The cup is removed and the
minimum water content at which fluids and solids separation after 120 s is greater than or equal
to 5 mm is recorded. Optimum water content is then selected at 2% less than the minimum water
content which was selected based on three criteria, i.e. avoid flushing of the surface, presence
of excessive fluids on the edge of the sample mould and provide uniform and smooth surface
texture (Smith et al., 1994).

3.5. Compatibility test

After optimum water content determination, aggregate-emulsion compatibility evaluation is con-
ducted for analysing the coating ability of emulsion on an aggregate surface (Baker, 1990). Since
the curing process of microsurfacing is chemically controlled, the physical and chemical prop-
erties of emulsion and aggregates significantly influence the aggregate-emulsion compatibility.
The compatibility characteristics, in turn, affects the adhesion characteristics of microsurfacing
mix. Hence, ISSA had laid down test protocols to assess the compatibility of aggregates and
emulsion using split consistency or split cup consistency test (ISSA TB No. 115, 2005).
In split consistency test, the mix of cone consistency test having consistency value between 2
and 3 cm are air dried to constant weight or heated in a forced draft oven at 60°C for 15 h. Then,
the sample is split along the diameter into two halves and the broken edge is examined for evi-
dence of aggregate or asphalt migration. In case of suspicious disuniformity in split consistency
samples, mixes with similar formulation are subjected to split cup consistency test. In this test,
100 g mix is poured in 177 ml plastic-lined cup and allowed to cured for minimum 15 h. The
solid sample is then split into half and dried in separate 237 ml ointment tins for 4 h at 121°C.
Then, using the reflux method, asphalt from both mixes are extracted and the difference in %
AC (asphalt content) is noted down. A split median gradation is also evaluated on the extracted
aggregates by determining % retained on 1.18 mm sieve for both halves.
10 N. Bhargava et al.

In addition, boiling compatibility test (ISSA TB No. 149, 2005) can also be used to determine
mix compatibility. In this test, mix is poured onto an aluminium foil having a plastic template
of thickness 6.35 mm over it and allowed to air cure for 24 h. Then, the foil is removed and
the sample is placed on a 850 μm sieve kept in 1000 ml beaker filled with 700 ml boiling water.
The sample is allowed to boil for 10 min after which the coated surface is examined visually to
analyse the compatibility of the mix.

3.6. Cohesion test

The compatible emulsion-aggregate systems are then subjected to a cohesion test for ensuring
adequate strength development prior to opening to traffic (ISSA TB No. 139, 2017). In con-
sistency test, dried aggregates are screened through 4.75 and 8 mm for Type 2 and Type 3,
respectively. Then, mix is prepared as per mix time test, as discussed in Section 3.3. After mixing
for 30 s, the sample is poured onto the ring mould (6 mm for Type 2 gradation and 10 mm for
Type 3 gradation) using a spatula and excess material is trimmed off. Ring mould is removed
after the sample attain sufficient stability to resist flow and the sample is allowed to cure. Then,
the sample is centred under neoprene foot of the cohesion testing machine. The air pressure is
set at 200 kPa and the foot is lowered at a rate of 8–10 cm/s and allowed to stay in contact with
sample for 5–6 s. For testing, the sample substrate is held with one hand while the other hand
is used for rotating torque metre through an arc of 90–120° within 0.5–0.7 s. Then, the torque
reading and mode of rupture are noted down.
Various mineral filler contents are analysed for torque measurements, and minimum mineral
filler content is defined where the torque values are more than 12 and 20 kg-cm after 30 and
60 min curing, respectively. The major difficulty with the procedure is the operator dependency
of torque application. Hence, for minimising the variability, automated cohesion test was devel-
oped in which the amount of rotation of foot is controlled by software and corresponding torque
measurements are graphically displayed on computer (Caltrans, 2010).

3.7. Performance tests

Next, the microsurfacing mix is subjected to performance test, i.e. ravelling (Wet Track Abrasion
Test, WTAT) and rutting (Loaded Wheel Tracker, LWT), to determine the optimum emulsion
content (OEC) by plotting the aggregate loss and sand adhered as shown in Figure 3 (ISSA TB
No. 111, 2005). Generally, an increase in sand adhered and decrease in aggregate loss is observed
as an increase in emulsion content. Hence, to avoid ravelling and minimise rutting simulta-
neously, assigning an acceptable emulsion content range and providing an adequate tolerance
limits is critical for ensuring satisfactory microsurfacing performance. Currently, a 3% tolerance
range is deducted from maximum allowable emulsion content from LWT and the mid-point of
tolerance range is defined as OEC (Andrews, 1994).
In WTAT (ISSA TB No. 100, 2017), sample preparation is conducted by adding water and
mineral filler to 700 g of dry aggregates and mixed thoroughly. Then, the emulsion is added in
the mix and stirred for less than 30 s and poured onto the roofing felt with a sample mould on top.
After the sample achieves initial setting, the mould is removed and the samples are allowed to
cure in air for 3 h at room temperature. Next, samples are cured in oven for 24 h at 60°C ± 3°C.
After curing, samples are kept in a water bath at 25°C ± 3°C for 60–75 min. Subsequently, for
testing the prepared samples, the rubber hose abrasion head is allowed to abrade the surface of
the prepared sample for 315 ± 2 s. The abraded sample is then washed off from loose debris and
change in weight of the sample due to abrasion is noted down. The abrasion loss is evaluated
using Equation (4) in which the loss correction factor (LCF), for correlation to standard Hobart’s
Road Materials and Pavement Design 11

Figure 3. Optimum emulsion content determination.

model (C-100), is dependent upon the machine used for testing.

Abrasion loss = (A − B) × LCF (4)

where A and B are the weight of samples before and after abrasion. Subsequently, for evaluating
rutting and bleeding in microsurfacing, LWT is generally used. In LWT, after preparing the mix
as discussed in Section 3.3, the mix is casted in a mould to get sample dimension of 15 × 2
with height of 0.5 . After casting, the sample is air cured at room temperature for 24 h followed
by oven curing at 60°C for 18–24 h. The cured sample is then cooled to room temperature for
2 h and mounted on the testing machine. In the test, 56.7 kg load is applied and the sample is
compacted at the rate of 44 cycles/minute for 1000 cycles. The change in width is noted down
to assess the lateral displacement using Equation 5. The samples are then mounted on the testing
machine and sand frame is centred over the sample. Then, 300 g heated (82.2°C) sand (size
range − 0.15 mm to 0.6 mm) is uniformly spread on the sample and compaction for 100 cycles
is immediately started. The sand adhesion is then determined using Equation 6 (ISSA TB No.
109, 2005; ISSA TB No. 147, 2005).
(D − C)
Lateral Displacement = × 100 (5)

Sand adhered = (F − E) × CF (6)

where C and D are the initial width and final width of sample after 1000 cycles of loading; E and
F are the weight of sample before and after sand adhesion, respectively. The correction factor
(CF) for LWT can be determined using the area that the sand adheres.
However, certain limitations have been reported for WTAT and LWT test. Smith et al. (1994)
observed that for certain formulations, WTAT shows consistently imprecise results. Also, the
current ISSA specification does not include aggregate retained on 4.75 mm for abrasion resis-
tance assessment. Hence, a new test, cohesion-abrasion test was developed by Caltrans (2004) in
which the rubber hose was replaced by a two-wheel fixture for better replication of traffic action.
In addition, for assessing early curing and cohesion build up, it was recommended to evaluate
the performance at various curing conditions. Moreover, LWT results permitted a wide range of
interpretation and were largely dependent on the water content present in the mix. Hence, the
12 N. Bhargava et al.

limits for excessive emulsion content from sand adhesion might not be indicative of flushing in
microsurfacing mix (Smith et al., 1994). Thus, ensuring the total fluid content during the LWT
process is critical for adequate performance assessment.
Another performance parameter, long-term moisture susceptibility is determined by WTAT
on 6-day soaked samples (Caltrans, 2004). The sample preparation and testing protocol are sim-
ilar to the ravelling test with the exception of soaking in water bath at 25°C ± 3°C for 6 days
instead of 60–75 min. The moisture damage is then quantified in terms of aggregate loss due to
abrasion (Equation 4). According to ISSA recommendation, the aggregate loss of 6-day soaked
sample should be less than 807 g/m2 . On the other hand, Caltrans (2010) recommends moisture
damage assessment by evaluting the ratio of abrasion loss of 6-day soaked sample to 1-hour
soaked sample. In addition, European Standard (BS EN, 12274-7, 2005) recommends the use
of shaking abrasion test to determine the water sensitivity of microsurfacing mix consisting
of aggregates passing 2 mm sieve. In this test, cylindrical specimens with height and diame-
ter of 25 and 30 mm, respectively, are prepared by statically compacting with 10 kN force for
1 min. Then, the test samples are kept in water maintained at approximately 1°C temperature.
The pressure is then steadily reduced over a period of 30 min to 3 ± 0.1 kPa and maintained
for further 150 ± 5 min period. The pressure is then removed slowly in 1 min and samples are
allowed to be immersed in water for 30 min. Then, water absorption is determined after surface
drying the sample with damp cloth using Equation (7) or Equation (8). Subsequently, the abra-
sion resistance (Equation (9)) is determined by placing the cured sample in cylinder filled with
750 ± 5 ml water and subjecting it to 3600 ± 10 revolutions in a mechanical shaker operated at
20 ± 0.2 rev/min.

mLV − mp
WV = × 100 for VV ≤ VA (7)
mLA − mWA
(mWV − mp ) + (mLA − mWA )
WV = × 100 for VV > VA (8)
mLA − mWA
mf − mar
AR = × 100 (9)

where WV and AR are the water absorption and abrasion resistance, respectively; VV and VA are
the volume of specimen before and after water absoprtion; mp is the mass of specimen in air
before testing; mLA and mWA are the mass of specimens prior to vacuum application in air and
water, respectively; mLV and mWV are the mass of specimens after vacuum application in air and
water, respectively; mf and mar are mass of specimens before and after abrasion, respectively.

3.8. Classification compatibility test

After microsurfacing mix passes the performance test, final job mix formula is assessed for clas-
sification compatibility by Schulze-Breuer and Ruck test (ISSA TB No. 144, 2013). In this test,
200 g of aggregates with gradation mentioned in ISSA TB No. 144 (2013) is mixed with 1%
mineral filler and desirable quantity of water. Next, emulsion, equivalent to 8.125% emulsion
residue, is added and the mix is stirred until it breaks. The mix is then air dried for at least 1 h
followed by oven curing for minimum 18 h at 60°C. For sample preparation, 40 g mix is poured
into preheated mould (60°C) and 1000 kg pressure is applied immediately and maintained for
1 min. The sample is extracted and allowed to cool at room temperature. The samples are then
tested for absorption, abrasion loss, integrity, and adhesion. For testing absorption, the prepared
sample is kept in water bath for 6 days at 25°C. The difference in weight is used to quantify
Table 5. Alternate test protocols to conventional ISSA test procedures.

Alternate Test Protocols

ISSA Specified Tests and ASTMa Caltransb Texasc Europed
1 Mix and set time test
• Operator variability for • Paper blot • Automatic Mixing Test • Procedure similar to • No provision
hand mixing. method ISSA
• Subjective nature of • Different cement
breaking and setting content
time assessment.
Consistency test
• Water content • No provision • Temperature variation • Modified cup flow test • Procedure similar to
variation with (10°C, 25°C and 50°C) ISSA
temperature not for optimum water
considered content determination

Road Materials and Pavement Design

• Unable to provide
adequate results for
quick set system, quick
traffic system
Cohesion test
• Operator dependency • Procedure • Automated cohesion • Procedure similar to • Procedure similar to
of torque application similar to ISSA test ISSA. ISSA except mixing
• Minimum cement time during sample
content determination preparation:
- Quick set: 45 s
- Slow set:
60–180 s


N. Bhargava et al.
Table 5. Continued.

Alternate Test Protocols

ISSA Specified Tests and ASTMa Caltransb Texasc Europed
Performance tests: Ravelling, rutting and moisture damage
• Low correlation with 1. Ravelling 1. Ravelling 1. Ravelling 1. Ravelling
field performance • Similar to • Cohesion-abrasion • Procedure similar to • Procedure similar to
• Absence of provision ISSA except test for different ISSA. ISSA
for different curing the absence of curing conditions 2. Rutting 2. Rutting
conditions provision for 2. Rutting • No provision • Not Applicable
• Variability in test air curing after • Procedure similar to 3. Moisture damage 3. Moisture damage
results sample ISSA but • Minimum residual • Shaking abrasion test
preparation. conditioning of asphalt content
2. Rutting samples based on (RAC)
• Similar to traffic conditions • Optimum
ISSA 3. Moisture damage RAC = Minimum
3. Moisture • Ratio of abrasion loss RAC + 0.5%
Damage of 6-day soaked
• No provision sample to 1-hour
soaked sample
Classification compatibility test
• Procedure • No provision • No provision • No provision
similar to ISSA
a ASTM D6372 (2015).
b Caltrans (2010).
c Smith et al. (1994).
d BS EN, 12274-3 (2002); BS EN, 12274-4 (2003); BS EN, 12274-5 (2003); BS EN, 12274-7 (2005).
Road Materials and Pavement Design 15

absorption. Next, the samples are subjected to abrasion for 3600 cycles at the rate of 20 rev-
olutions per minute and loss in weight is noted down. Subsequently, integrity is measured by
placing the sample in boiling water for 30 min and measuring the weight of largest remaining
piece. Then, adhesion is determined by visually assessing the % asphalt coating on the sample
for integrity test after allowing it to air dry for 24 h. The compatibility is then quantified by
assigning points (4–0) and grade ratings (A to D and 0) for each property including abrasion
loss, integrity and adhesion in the same order. Formulation with minimum 11 point rating and
AAA or BAA grade ratings (abrasion loss ≤ 1 g, integrity ≥ 90%, adhesion ≥ 90%) fulfil the
mix design (ISSA A143, 2010) requirement.
Hence, it can be concluded that although ISSA recommended tests are easy to understand
and excecute, issues related to repeatibility presents several disadvantages. In order to overcome
these shortcomings, several modifications proposed by TTI and Caltrans had been discussed in
detail. Table 5 describes the drawbacks of conventional ISSA test procedures and the alternate
test protocols suggested by different agencies to overcome the listed issues. Additionally, the
recommendation of incorporation of field conditions in mix design by Caltrans could further
help in enhancing the durability of microsurfacing.

4. Quality control
Quality refers to the degree to which the job conforms to the specification requirements. In
order to ensure a durable pavement, quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) has to
be planned and performed systematically. Since the projects involving microsurfacing are on
large-scale, the inherent variability in nature over a course of time results in changes in the mate-
rial properties including quality of aggregates and emulsion, which has to be controlled to ensure
microsurfacing mix performs as desired (Gransberg, 2010).
Several agencies laid down criteria’s for frequency of testing for QC. Typical QC guide-
lines by MoRT&H (2013) are shown in Figure 4. Furthermore, guidelines laid down for
tolerance limits with respect to aggregate gradation and residual asphalt content by various
agencies are presented in Tables 6 and 7 respectively (GDOT, 2013; ISSA A143, 2010; Min-
nesota Department of Transportation, n.d.; Patrick, 2018; MoRT&H, 2013; OkDOT, 2009;
Sholar & Kim, 2013; West & Smith, 1996). It could be inferred from Tables 6 and 7 that
although the importance of quality control is well-known, the tolerance limits established by
different agencies vary. For instance, the tolerance limits for aggregate gradation by Texas
and Australia are more stringent than ISSA or Indian specifications. Studies have also recom-
mended narrowing the range of aggregate gradation provided in ISSA guidelines (Robati, Carter,
& Perraton, 2013a). Similarly, for residual asphalt content, Minnesota and Georgia Depart-
ment of Transportation suggests to reduce the allowable range from 5.5–10.5% to 7.0–10.5%
and 6.0–9.0%, respectively. Also, Australian specifications permit a wider tolerance range for
asphalt content in comparison to other specifications. Therefore, understanding the variability
in performance associated with deviation in process control parameters is critical to analyse
project specific microsurfacing durability. Thus, a rigorous analysis on reliability of micro-
surfacing mix design and quantification of tolerance limits are essential for ensuring durable
microsurfacing mix.
It is also important to control the variability in material delivery rate during the production
stage. In this regard, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans, 2015) laid down the cri-
teria for maximum allowable deviation of 2% for the delivery rate of both aggregate and emulsion
from aggregate belt feeder and emulsion pump, respectively. Also, the binder to dry aggregate
proportioning should confirm within a tolerance range of Job Mix Formula (JMF) ± 6.4 L/metric
ton (ODOT, 2018).
16 N. Bhargava et al.

Figure 4. Quality control tests with minimum frequency for microsurfacing mix.

Table 6. Tolerance limits for aggregate gradation.

Sieve Size (mm) ISSAa Texasb Georgiac Indiad Australiae

4.75 ± 5% ± 5% ± 6% ± 5% ± 6%
2.36 ± 5% ± 5% ± 5% ± 5% ± 5%
1.18 ± 5% ± 5% ± 5% ± 5%
0.60 ± 5% ± 3% ± 5% ± 4%
0.30 ± 4% ± 3% ± 4% ± 4% ± 3%
0.15 ± 3% ± 3% ± 3% ± 2%
0.075 ± 2% ± 3% ± 3% ± 2% ± 1.5%
a ISSA A143 (2010).
b TxDOT (2014).
c GDOT (2013).
d IRC SP: 81 (2008).
e Patrick (2018).

In addition to QC on materials used for microsurfacing production, it is vital to assess the

microsurfacing surface characteristics for conforming to performance requirements. Accord-
ing to the European Standard (BS EN, 12273, 2008), the evaluation of conformity to stated
performance characteristics should be demonstrated by Factory Production Control (FPC) and
Type Approval Installation Trial (TAIT). In the FPC system, the producer shall establish, doc-
ument and maintain the record of procedures, regular inspections and tests conducted to ensure
quality control of procured material, equipment, production process and the finished product. In
TAIT, the test section of minimum length of 200 m is installed using FPC and the performance
characteristics are defined after one year of completion of microsurfacing application.
In addition, the European Standard (BS EN, 12274-8, 2005) provides a guideline for qualita-
tive (estimated) and quantitative (measured) assessment of defects. The defects are estimated or
Road Materials and Pavement Design 17

Table 7. Tolerance limits for residual asphalt content.

Residual Asphalt Content (by Tolerance limits of residual asphalt
Source weight of dry aggregate) content from job mix formula

ISSA* 5.5–10.5% ± 1.5%

India (MoRT&H)
Type II 6.5–10.5%
Type III 5.5–10.5%
US states
Florida 5.5–10.5% ± 0.5%
Oklahoma 6.0–9.0% ± 0.5%
Texas 6.0–9.0% ± 0.5%
Minnesota 7.0–10.5%
Georgia 6.0–9.0% ± 0.5%
Australia − 0.5% to + 1%
* Tolerance limits for optimum emulsion content from job mix formula.

measured in terms of areas and lengths for 100 m section every 11–13 months. The defects men-
tioned below are then categorised according to performance characteristics of microsurfacing
(BS EN, 12273, 2008; PD, 6689, 2009).

• Bleeding, fatting up and cracking

• Delamination, loss of aggregate, wearing, rutting, lane joint gaps and slippage
• Corrugation, bumps and ridges
• Small repetitive defects
• Longitudinal grooves

Even after rigorous quality control during the production stage, there is a possibility of non-
compliance of material properties or construction activities from the specified tolerance ranges.
In such cases, the payment of the work is reduced in conjunction with the non-compliance of
that particular work. Several agencies have defined pay reduction factors for different parameters
during microsurfacing production and construction stage as follows:

• Residual asphalt content – 2% reduction in unit price for each 0.1% variation in resid-
ual asphalt content outside mixture control tolerance range for each of the first two days
tolerance was exceeded (GDOT, 2013).
• Application rate – 5% reduction in unit price for each 0.5 kg/m2 lesser mix spread rate than
specified tolerance range for each days’ material placement (GDOT, 2013).
• Aggregate properties – Deduction of $2/ton for each non-compliant aggregate gradation
and cleanliness (sand equivalent) test (Caltrans, 2015).
• Defects – 2–20% reduction in price depending upon the number of defects including binder
or aggregate properties, aggregate gradation, binder content, surface shape, skid resistance
and texture depth (Patrick, 2018).

5. Investigations on laboratory and field performance of microsurfacing

Microsurfacing has shown promising performance in several projects (Baker, 1990; Erwin, 2007;
Hixon & Ooten, 1993; Moulthrop, Day, & Ballou, 1996; Pederson & Hixon, 1988; Tabatabaee,
Ziyadi, & Shafahi, 2012). The successful performance of microsurfacing is defined with respect
18 N. Bhargava et al.

to homogeneous application, resistance to compaction after curing, initial consolidation by traf-

fic, and an adequate skid resistance. For confirming a successful performance, microsurfacing
mix should possess sufficient stability to prevent premature breaking, free of excess liquid
to avoid segregation and to have a proper mix consistency (ISSA A143, 2010). Gransberg,
Pittenger, and Tighe (2012) pointed project selection, distress type, binder type, equipment cal-
ibration and timing of placement as the vital components of best practices for microsurfacing
Bausano, Chatti, and Williams (2004) determined the life expectancy of microsurfacing and
analysed its reliability, i.e. probability of system not failing. For evaluating life expectancy, dis-
tribution of distress index (DI) was plotted at subsequent years after microsurfacing application.
After plotting distribution, reliability was determined by evaluating the area under the curve to
the left of guideline values. Here, the calculation of probability of failure was conducted using
two limiting criteria’s including DI guideline threshold value and DI rehabilitation threshold
value. The results showed that the reliability decreased from 95% to 67% and 98% to 75% at
a fairly constant rate considering guideline and rehabilitation threshold value, respectively. In
this context, investigations on microsurfacing performance showed that the primary distresses
in microsurfacing include ravelling, rutting (Jahren & Behling, 2004) and moisture damage (Wu
et al., 2011). Hence, evaluation of parameters influencing microsurfacing performance is critical
for ensuring durability of microsurfacing mix.

5.1. Laboratory investigations

The performance of microsurfacing mix in the laboratory can be assessed in terms of cohesion,
ravelling, rutting resistance, stripping and classification compatibility (ISSA A143, 2010). The
most commonly adopted test for assessing, ravelling and rutting in microsurfacing are WTAT and
LWT, whereas torque measurements are generally used to quantify cohesion. In addition, strip-
ping and classification compatibility are measured using boiling water test and Schulze Breuer
and Ruck test, respectively.
Study by Andrews (1994) showed that the 30-min and 60-min cohesion of microsurfacing
mix is dependent on the combination of water content, cement content and additive used for mix
production. It was also observed from Schulze Breuer and Ruck test that mineral filler content
and compatibility rating were related (Andrews, 1994). In addition, Robati (2014) found that
the coated area of microsurfacing mix after wet stripping test was dependent on both aggregate
type and emulsion content. Hence, for better understanding of the parameters influencing micro-
surfacing performance, a summary of laboratory investigations on microsurfacing performance
is presented in Table 8. It could be concluded from Table 8 that influence of process control
parameters, including aggregate gradation, emulsion content and water content on performance
of microsurfacing mix is significant. The general trends in microsurfacing performance observed
with increase in process control parameters (total surface area, emulsion content and water con-
tent) are presented in Table 9 (Robati, 2014). For example, it could be inferred from Table 9 that
the mix time decreases with an increase in total surface area. Likewise, an increase in emulsion
and water content leads to an increase in mix time.
The primary durability aspect associated with microsurfacing includes resistance to moisture
damage and aging. For microsurfacing, wet track abrasion test on 6-day soaked samples is gen-
erally used to address issues related to moisture damage (Caltrans, 2010). However, Zhai and
Rosales (2017) assessed moisture damage using accelerated test and found that curing for 3
h at 60°C gave similar results to 6 days at 25°C. Another study by Ilias (2015) showed that
the 24 h conditioning at 40°C in water bath is able to delineate poorly performing mix from
well-performing mix. In addition, Garfa, Carter, & Dony (2018) simulated thermal aging in
Table 8. Microsurfacing performance – Laboratory investigations.

Author Parameters Property Influence on microsurfacing property

Holleran and Van Kirk • Additive type (Latex and • Set time - Marginal improvement with crumb rubber addition
(1997) crumb rubber in emulsion) • Ravelling - Ravelling – Polymer < Rubber < Neat asphalt
• Rutting - Rutting – Polymer < Rubber < Neat asphalt
• Flexural - Rubber modified material – Better crack resistance
Nikolaides and • Mineral filler type • Ravelling - OPC as filler – Not influenced by temperature
Oikonomou (2000) • Test temperature - PFA as filler – Increase in aggregate loss at 35°C
Ji et al. (2013) • Aging • Ravelling - Increased degree of ravelling with aging
Robati et al. (2013a) • Aggregate gradation • Ravelling - Dependent on total surface area of aggregates
• Emulsion residue - Emulsion residue ↑ – Ravelling ↓
Robati (2014) • Aggregate-emulsion • Ravelling - Increased ravelling due to rapid rise in pH
Lonbar, Nasrazad, and • Aggregate type • Skid - Improved with rough texture aggregates
Shafaghat (2014) • Emulsion content resistance - Emulsion content ↑ – Skid resistance ↓

Road Materials and Pavement Design

Robati et al. (2015) • Filler-mastic interaction • Cohesion - Higher stiffening rate – Faster cohesion development
- pH of filler ↑
- Zeta potential ↑
- Methylene Blue Value ↑
Ilias (2015) • Binder type • Ravelling - Ravelling reduces with binder modification
• Temperature • Moisture - Increase in temperature increases ravelling
• Moisture conditioning damage - Poorly performing mix – Aggregate loss ↑ significantly
Lonbar et al. (2015) • Aggregate type • Rutting - Rut depth – Riverine > Mountainous aggregates
• Emulsion type - Rut depth – CSS-1 h polymer modified > Resin epoxy
• Emulsion content modified
- Emulsion content ↑ – Rutting ↑
- Rate of rutting – Higher for first 500 cycles


Table 8. Continued.

N. Bhargava et al.
Author Parameters Property Influence on microsurfacing property

Garfa et al. (2016) • Aggregate gradation • Ravelling - Dependent on both aggregate gradation and emulsion
• Emulsion type • Rutting content
• Mineral filler content • Cohesion - Coarse gradation showed best rutting resistance
- Coarse gradation – Best cohesion
- Dependent on emulsion type and mineral filler content
- Curing time ↑ – Cohesion ↑
Lonbar and Nazirizad • Aggregate type • Ravelling - Ravelling – Mountainous > Riverine aggregates
(2016) • Emulsion content • Moisture - Ravelling – CSS-1 h > CQS-1 h emulsion
• Emulsion type damage - Emulsion content ↓ – Ravelling ↑
• Rutting - Moisture damage – Mountainous > Riverine aggregates
- Rut depth – Riverine > Mountainous aggregates
- Emulsion content ↑ – Rutting ↑
- Decrease in rate of deformation with decrease in emulsion
content dependent on emulsion type
Yang and Liu (2017) • Packing degree of • Ravelling - 1-hour soaked > 6-day soaked (Increases up to 48 h)
aggregates • Rutting - Short-term ravelling – Dependent on packing degree of
• Asphalt film thickness aggregates
- Long-term ravelling – Dependent on asphalt film
- Highest packing degree – Not obtaining best rutting
Ye, Guo, and Hou • Aggregate gradation • Cohesion - Coarser gradation – Lower cohesion value
(2017) • Ravelling - Intermediate gradation – Best ravelling resistance
• Rutting - Proportion of fine aggregates ↑ – Flushing ↓
• Moisture - Intermediate gradation – Best moisture resistance
Garfa et al. (2018) • Water content • Rutting - Significant factors influencing rut depth
- Rut depth before rehabilitation
- Added water percentage
Note: ↑ denotes increase in parameter value; ↓ denotes decrease in parameter value.
Road Materials and Pavement Design 21

Table 9. General trends observed with variation in process control parameters.

Influence of process control parameter

Increase in Total Increase in Increase in
Test Surface Area Emulsion content Water content
Mix time Decrease Increase Increase
Consistency Decrease Increase Increase
30-min Increase Optimum Optimum
60-min Increase Optimum Optimum
WTAT (Aggregate loss)
1-hour Increase Decrease Decrease
6-day Increase Decrease Decrease
Deformation Decrease Increase Increase
Sand adhesion Decrease Increase Increase

laboratory by subjecting HMA slabs rehabilitated with microsurfacing for 2 and 5 days aging
at 85°C. Aged samples were then tested for rutting using LPC rut tester. The results highlighted
the improvement in rutting resistance with curing and aging times. Hence, further studies to cor-
relate microsurfacing mix properties of aged samples to mimic field conditions could further
improve the evaluation of microsurfacing durability.
Alternative to conventional aggregates like reclaimed asphalt pavement, recycled asphalt shin-
gles and steel slag and carbon fibres, rubber powder and fly ash as alternate to mineral fillers had
also shown promising performance (Dadhich, Patel, Parmar, Patel, & Katariya, 2015; Garfa et al.,
2018; Garfa, Dony, & Carter, 2016; Patel & Gujar, 2017; Robati, Carter, & Perraton, 2013b). The
utilisation of such alternate materials could be further explored for enhancing the greenness of
microsurfacing technology.
Another interesting aspect is the pre-compaction of microsurfacing, which is generally con-
fined to the use in airfield and parking areas, to be explored to reduce the rate of rutting
in microsurfacing mix (ISSA A143, 2010; Lonbar, Nasrazad, & Shafaghat, 2015). In addi-
tion, although proper breaking and curing of emulsion are established as a basic perquisite
for successful performance (Gransberg, 2010), very few studies have documented the influ-
ence of curing time and temperature on microsurfacing performance. Too hot or too cold
weather could potentially result in problems related to flushing and early ravelling respectively
(Peshkin, Hoerner, & Zimmerman, 2004). Hence, consideration to curing time, temperature,
and humidity and wind conditions needs to be accounted while conducting microsurfacing mix

5.2. Field investigations

Field investigations showed that microsurfacing effectively reduces the rut depth along with
improving the riding quality and skid resistance (Baker, 1990; Kazmierowski & Bradbury, 1995;
Kumar & Ryntathiang, 2012; Pederson & Hixon, 1988; Workman, 2016). The traffic delay is
also reduced due to higher application rate, faster curing and application possible at night time
because of chemical curing of microsurfacing mix (Gransberg, 2010). The reduction in crash
rate, especially on a wet pavement surface, due to improved skid resistance and better riding
quality are other advantages associated with microsurfacing application (Erwin, 2007). In 1998,
Syed et al. showed that microsurfacing successfully reduced bleeding, ravelling, and weathering,
22 N. Bhargava et al.

whereas minimal reduction in cracking was found after 48 months of service life (Syed, Freeman,
& Smith, 1998). In another study, 6–27% decrease in international roughness index (IRI), 92–
96% reduction in rutting and 2–7% increase in pavement condition rating (PCR) was found with
microsurfacing application (Labi, Hwee, Lamptey, & Nunoo, 2006). In addition, on an average,
microsurfacing improved the service life by 5, 15 and 7 years considering IRI, rutting, and PCR
as effectiveness criteria respectively (Labi, Lamptey, & Kong, 2007).
One of the most critical components for ensuring effectiveness of microsurfacing is the timing
of application. Rajagopal (2010) found that microsurfacing to be most effective when applied
on pavement with prior pavement condition rating (PCR) in the range of 61–70. Studies also
noticed that proper timing of microsurfacing enhance the performance of pavement by 37%
with respect to major rehabilitation (Giustozzi, Crispino, & Flintsch, 2012). In addition, the life
extension and net benefit were maximum for pavement with overall pavement index value of
78, whereas a negative net benefit is observed when microsurfacing is applied too early (Wang,
Morian, & Frith, 2012). Likewise, the use of four microsurfacing applications was reported as
the best suitable alternative for achieving life-horizon of 40 years (Simões, Almeida-Costa, &
Benta, 2017).
In addition, several other factors like project selection, process control parameters, construc-
tion quality and environmental conditions contribute toward the effectiveness of microsurfacing.
In this regard, an elaborate summary of the field investigations is presented in Table 10 where
the influence of various parameters on microsurfacing performance is highlighted. Some of the
properties investigated are skid resistance, smoothness and cracking resistance of microsurfacing
Skid resistance of microsurfacing mix is generally assessed in terms of British Pendulum
Number (BPN); macrotexture by sand patch method; and friction number (FN) using a brake
force trailer. An increase in BPN value (Jahren & Behling, 2004; Jamion, Hainin, & Yaacob,
2014; Patel & Gujar, 2017), improvement in pavement macrotexture (Patel & Gujar, 2017) and
increase in FN (Uzarowski, Maher, & Farrington, 2005) is observed with microsurfacing applica-
tion. The improvement in skid resistance with microsurfacing application has been presented in
Figure 5. In general, the skid resistance improved by 15% to 200% immediately after construc-
tion of microsurfacing treatment (Hein, Emery, & Ippolito, 1994; Kim et al., 2013 Uzarowski
et al., 2005;). Also, the skid resistance was found to be better than the pretreated pavement
surface even after 36 months of service life (Pederson & Hixon, 1988).
It has been observed that skid resistance of pavement surface primarily influences the risk of
road crashes. An appropriate skid resistance offered by the pavement system enhance safety by
minimising road crashes caused due to poor skid resistance. Erwin (2007) reported an overall
reduction in road crashes by 18% with microsurfacing application. The data was then broken
down depending on road surface condition. Interestingly, the road surface condition with maxi-
mum reduction in road crashes (32%) were on wet surface. In addition, the accidents in critical
locations like intersections were also reduced by 24%. Another study by Lyon, Persaud, and Mer-
ritt (2018) showed that for microsurfacing, the wet road crashes on both two-lane and multilane
roads decreased significantly.
Improvement in riding quality and delay in progression of roughness were also noticed with
microsurfacing application (Pandey & Pundhir, 2011). The assessment of smoothness in terms
of international roughness index (IRI) showed that IRI values decrease by 0.97–1.43 m/km (Kim
et al., 2013), whereas the decrease in IRI by 0.24 m/km was observed assuming a 3-year treatment
life period (Santos, Flintsch, & Ferreira, 2017). Figure 6 presents the reduction in IRI immedi-
ately after microsurfacing construction. It could be observed that IRI decreases by 15–65% with
the application of microsurfacing. Also, IRI of microsurfacing surface after 6–12 months of
service life was satisfactory (Ji, Nantung, Tompkins, & Harris, 2013; Johnson, Wood, & Olson,
Table 10. Microsurfacing performance – field investigations.

Author Parameter Microsurfacing property Influence on microsurfacing property

Hixon and Ooten • Alternate materials • Rate of rutting - Effectively reduced to 4 years
(1993) • Aggregate type and • Rut filling - Effective upto 38 mm depth
gradation • Skid resistance - Improved with skid resistance
• Application • Ravelling resistance - Improved with customised gradation
• Reflective cracking - Inadequate for application on PCC
- Observed for application over PCC
Smith et al. (1994) • Water content • Breaking and setting time - Unacceptable for higher water content and lower mineral
• Filler content • Abrasion filler content and vice-versa
• Sand adhesion - Decrease with increase in water content
- Increase with increase in water content
Moulthrop et al. • Application on JPCP • Smoothness - Dependent on type of spreader box with 4.9-m ski
(1996) • Riding quality - Comparable to HMA
Watson and Jared • Aggregate size • Surface quality - Improved by removal of oversized stone
(1998) • Emulsion content • Flushing - Reduced with lowering emulsion content by 0.8%
Temple et al. • Pavement condition • Pavement distress - After 5 years of service life – PCI > 85

Road Materials and Pavement Design

(2002) • Pavement age • Skid resistance - Reduction in cracking distress and rutting
• Aggregate type - Sandstone aggregates perform better than limestone.
Johnson et al. • Asphalt grade • Transverse reflective - Softer asphalt grade – Reduced moderately
(2007) • Binder content cracking - Softer asphalt grade – Effective reduction
• Pavement age • Longitudinal reflective - Binder content reduction (1–2%) – Effective
cracking - After one year – Little decrease
• Rut filling and scratch
Kucharek et al. • Aggregate gradation • Satisfactory performance - Moderate traffic – Type II gradation
(2010) -Structural strength, - Heavy traffic – Fine Type III gradation
macrotexture and noise - Minimum binder content – 7%


N. Bhargava et al.
Table 10. Continued.

Author Parameter Microsurfacing property Influence on microsurfacing property

Broughton and Lee • Asphalt type • Aggregate loss - Recommendation – Use harder grade binder
(2012) • Application rate • Flushing and bleeding - Reason - Higher application rate
• Pavement condition • Debonding - Recommendation – Use continuous paving machine
• Environmental condition • Crack propagation - Insufficient structural strength of underlying pavement
• Project selection • Performance - Accelerated with cold weather
• Workmanship • Ensuring performance - Poor – Base failure
- Preparation of test strip – Check workmanship
- Allow equipment calibration
Jamion et al. (2014) • Pavement age (after 12 • Texture depth - More than acceptable limit
months of service) • Skid resistance - Decrease by 12.93% due to aggregate breaking and
• Rutting polishing by traffic
- Satisfactory performance
Road Materials and Pavement Design 25

Figure 5. Improvement in skid resistance immediately after microsurfacing construction.

Figure 6. Reduction in IRI values immediately after microsurfacing construction.

2007; Watson & Jared, 1998). However, reflective cracking was one of the major issues observed
with microsurfacing application (Kumar & Ryntathiang, 2012; Pederson & Hixon, 1988).
Furthermore, researchers have explored areas like noise measurements, permeability and aging
for assessing microsurfacing performance. The influence of microsurfacing on noise had shown
contradictory observations. Handheld digital sound level metre (Watson & Jared, 1998), statis-
tical pass-by method (Sangiorgi, Bitelli, Lantieri, Irali, & Girardi, 2012) and close proximity
method (Bennert, Hanson, Maher, & Vitillo, 2005; Kim et al., 2013) were primarily used for
noise measurement. Studies on noise measurement had shown that although comparable or
reduced noise by 0.1–4.5 dB(A) was generally observed with microsurfacing application (Ben-
nert et al., 2005; Kim et al., 2013; Sangiorgi et al., 2012), negligible increase in noise in some
areas could be attributed to the increased texture (Bennert et al., 2005; Watson & Jared, 1998).
Button (1996) investigated permeability of microsurfacing using a constant head water per-
meameter and found the permeability of microsurfacing to be less than 1 × 10−5 cm/s after
achieving maximum compaction. Analysis on the effect of microsurfacing on aging of underlying
26 N. Bhargava et al.

pavement layers was also conducted by Button (1996). The results showed that microsurfacing
significantly delayed the failure initiation due to oxidative aging of underlying pavement by 0–2
years if the treatment was applied within first 2 years of service life of underlying pavement.
In summary, the factors during the production stage can be broadly classified as process control
parameters and construction issues. Aggregate type and gradation (Hixon & Ooten, 1993; Jahren
& Behling, 2004; Temple, Shah, Paul, & Abadie, 2002) and emulsion and water contents (Watson
& Jared, 1998) are process control parameters, whereas construction factors include application
rate (Jahren & Behling, 2004) and climatic conditions (Sangiorgi et al., 2012; Tabatabaee et al.,
2012). In addition, minor to medium ravelling had been observed where the degree of ravelling
increased due to the oxidation and aging of microsurfacing mix (Ji et al., 2013).
Hence, the review of field performance studies pointed that although several projects showed
satisfactory performance, distresses were observed in some projects. Most commonly observed
distresses in microsurfacing includes ravelling, rutting and moisture damage. It has been found
that the microsurfacing application results in sudden performance jump where skid resistance,
smoothness, and permeability are the primary performance parameters that were improved. How-
ever, reflective cracking and noise- related issue needs further research for better understanding
and to find possible solutions. In addition, the parameters, including aggregate type and grada-
tion, emulsion type and content, environmental conditions, aging, and moisture were found to
influence microsurfacing performance.

6. Challenges and proposed solutions

6.1. Microsurfacing mix design
Microsurfacing mix design is a complex process as each component of the mix as well as their
interaction plays a critical role in coating quality and strength characteristics. It is well established
that asphalt emulsion plays a critical role in microsurfacing performance. However, the current
specifications for emulsion properties are empirical in nature and does not have a direct relation
to field performance. In this regard, Ilias et al. (2017) introduced emulsion performance grade
(EPG) which directly correlated the emulsion specifications to field performance. Basically, EPG
specifications defined the climatic and traffic conditions for which a particular emulsion could
be used for microsurfacing production based on fresh emulsion properties and resistance of the
emulsion residue to rutting, bleeding and thermal cracking. The proposed EPG specifications for
different grades are presented in Table 11 (Ilias et al., 2017).
Various researchers have also reported the challenges with the existing mix design processes.
The issues that are most commonly reported are (Andrews, 1994; Raza, 1994; Robati, Carter, &
Perraton, 2013c; Smith et al., 1994; Wu, 2015):

• Subjective determination of mixing time

• Operator dependency of torque application for cohesion measurement
• Poor reproducibility of LWT
• Weak relation between laboratory results and field performance
• Inability of wet track abrasion to delineate the influence of aggregate type
• Variation in the optimum emulsion content with different procedures
• Exclusion of 4.75 mm retained aggregates in WTAT and LWT test procedure

Hence, to improve microsurfacing mix design, some authors have recommended modifications
to current mix design procedure. Robati (2014) suggested the use of LWT (ISSA TB No. 147,
2005) for determination of optimum emulsion content. The formulations with greater cohesion
Table 11. Proposed emulsion performance grade (EPG) specifications for microsurfacing.

Temperature (°C)

High-temperature gradea 61 67 73
Low-temperature grade b − 7; − 13; − 19; − 25; − 31 − 7; − 13; − 19; − 25; − 31 − 7; − 13; − 19; − 25; − 31
Test methods for fresh emulsion Test T(°C)
Storage stability
A - 24-h separation ratio (Rs ): 0.2–1.5 25 25 25
B - 24-h stability ratio (Rd ): max. 1.5
Emulsion viscosity: max. 600 cP at 5 rpm 25 25 25
Particle charge: Positive (cationic) 25 25 25
Sieve test: Max. 0.1% 25 25 25
Solubility: Min. 97.5% 25 25 25
Float: |Min. 1,200 s 60 60 60

Road Materials and Pavement Design

Percent residue: Min. 57% 25 25 25
Test methods on emulsion residue
Resistance to rutting and bleeding
Max. Jnr at 3.2, 5 kPa−1 (low traffic) 61 67 73
Max. Jnr at 3.2, 1.5 kPa−1 (medium - high traffic)
Resistance to thermal cracking
Max. |G*| at δ c : 16 MPa 5 and 15 5 and 15 5 and 15
δ c values at low-temperature grade:
δ c = 50° at − 7°C, δ c = 48° at − 13°C,
δ c = 46° at − 19°C, δ c = 44° at − 25°C,
δ c = 42° at − 31°C, δ c = 40° at − 37°C
a Average 7-day maximum pavement surface design temperature should be less than high-temperature grade.
b Minimum pavement surface design temperature should be greater than Low-temperature grade.

28 N. Bhargava et al.

(ISSA TB No. 113, 2017) were subjected to compaction and the formulation with least verti-
cal and lateral displacement was termed as optimum emulsion content. In addition, Wu (2015)
proposed the evaluation of peak flexural tensile strain using bending test of a small beam of
microsurfacing mix at − 10°C along with conventional ISSA procedure to determine the opti-
mal emulsion dosage. Another study by Kumar and Ryntathiang (2016) modified the mixing
method for sample preparation during mix design. First, the pre-wet coarse aggregates were
mixed with required emulsion quantity estimated from surface area method. After homogeneous
coating of coarse aggregates, 50% of moistened fine aggregate and 50% of emulsion estimated
for fine aggregate was added and mixed. Then, additives were added after which remaining 50%
moistened fine aggregates and 50% of emulsion estimated for fine aggregate was poured and
mixed. The modifications adopted in the study were reported to eliminate the formation of lumps
in microsurfacing mix during the production stage.
Hence, incorporating the modifications suggested by the researchers and agencies, the most
commonly adopted ISSA mix design could be improved for ensuring better durability of
microsurfacing mix.

6.2. Performance of microsurfacing treatment in field

The primary disadvantage associated with microsurfacing application is reflective cracking on
pavement surface (Gransberg, 2010; Johnson et al., 2007; Wood & Geib, 2001). In this regard,
ISSA A143 (2010) recommends the use of an approved crack sealer to treat cracks of width
greater than 0.25 inch with sufficient time being provided for the sealant to cure before micro-
surfacing application. Kucharek, Davidson, Moore, and Linton (2010) also suggested that if the
potential for reflective cracking is high, the cracks should be sealed at least 2 months prior to
microsurfacing application. However, if the cracks are on structurally inadequate or have unsta-
ble pavement layer materials, the microsurfacing treatment would generally be ineffective. In
such cases, alternate repair methods are recommended in place of microsurfacing to treat pave-
ment (Smith & Beatty, 1999). In addition, Wood and Geib (2001) stated that the presence of
projections on pavement surface could not be rectified with microsurfacing as the mix flows away
from humps during placement. Milling of the areas with projections is recommended before the
application of microsurfacing mix in such areas. Study by Bashar, Elseifi, Mousa, Zhang, and
Gaspard (2019) showed that pavement treated with microsurfacing had higher percentage of
moisture damaged sections in comparison to untreated pavement surface. The higher moisture
damage was attributed to the trapped moisture underneath the pavement which cause progres-
sive damage throughout the service life. Hence, it is critical to conduct an in-depth assessment
of resistance of untreated pavement to moisture damage prior to microsurfacing application.
The performances of paving job are highly depended on the tightness of the process control
methodology. The main process control variables include aggregate gradation, emulsion content
and aggregate moisture content (Hixon & Ooten, 1993; Jahren & Behling, 2004; Temple et al.,
2002; Watson & Jared, 1998). On the other hand, other environmental factors such as humidity,
temperature and wind velocity during curing also influence microsurfacing performance sig-
nificantly. Apart from process control parameters and environmental factors mentioned above,
microsurfacing is subjected to combined action of aging and moisture damage during service life.
In this context, the durability of microsurfacing mix should be assessed in terms of laboratory
performance tests by subjecting the mix to variability encountered in field.
Construction activities also have an influence on the behaviour of microsurfacing. The prob-
lem of flushing was observed by Hixon and Ooten (1993) when the deep ruts were filled in
single pass. This was due to the settlement of coarse aggregate at the bottom which resulted in
oil-rich, flushed pavement surface. In order to address the issue, separate aggregate gradation was
Road Materials and Pavement Design 29

introduced which provided a dryer microsurfacing mix. Also, ISSA A143 (2010) recommends
to fill ruts of depth greater than 38.1 mm in multiple layers. However, the application of micro-
surfacing for filling ruts with alligator cracking and shear failure in wheel path would not correct
the problem (Smith & Beatty, 1999). Watson and Jared (1998) found that the use of burlap drag

Table 12. Problems associated with variation in mix properties and climatic condition.

Cause Associated Problems

Unstable Poor coating, premature breaking, delamination
Highly stable Failure to set, delayed opening to traffic, ravelling
High temperature Premature breaking
Less quantity Poor coating, ravelling
Excessive quantity Flushing
High fine content Poor coating, premature breaking, ravelling
High cement content Whitish surface, premature breaking
Low cement content Failure to set, delayed opening to traffic, ravelling
Low additive content Poor coating, premature breaking, ravelling
High additive content Failure to set, delayed opening to traffic, ravelling
High water content Brownish surface, failure to set, delayed opening to traffic, ravelling,
flushing, segregation
Low water content Poor coating, premature breaking, ravelling, delamination
Compatibility issues Failure to set, poor coating, delayed opening to traffic, ravelling,
delamination, segregation
Climatic Conditions
High temperature Brownish surface, poor coating, premature breaking, ravelling,
Low temperature Failure to set, delayed opening to traffic, ravelling, delamination
Rain Failure to set, poor coating, delayed opening to traffic, ravelling,
flushing, delamination
High humidity Failure to set
Fatty Failure to set, flushing

Figure 7. Common Problems and Related Solutions for microsurfacing application.

30 N. Bhargava et al.

resulted in higher noise levels due to the presence of large stones on the top of microsurfacing
mix which subsequently resulted in ravelling. The issue could be resolved by removal of burlap
drag during paving operation.
Hence, to better understand the challenges associated with microsurfacing and correspond-
ing probable causes, a guide is presented in Table 12 (Gransberg, 2010). In addition, Figure 7
presents the possible solutions to rectify the most commonly observed construction issues
(Caltrans, 2009).

7. Conclusion
Microsurfacing had been found as a viable cost-effective pavement preservation treatment for
improving serviceability by addressing minor distresses on a pavement surface. From the exten-
sive literature survey, the merits and demerits of microsurfacing technology is presented in this
study. Good mix design and systematic production are the keys to ensure effectiveness and
durability of microsurfacing. The conventional microsurfacing mix design by ISSA covers a
wide range of performance parameters, including aggregate-emulsion compatibility, early traffic
damage, ravelling, and moisture damage, rutting, bleeding and flushing. Several laboratory and
field investigations have also highlighted the successful implementation of current mix design
practices efficiently.
Repeatability and reproducibility of test results are the main concern expressed in the vast
literature body. Concerns on particle size restriction, correlation to field performance, consider-
ation of curing time, temperature and humidity ranges are also reported. The premature distress
such as disintegration, deformation, cracking and bleeding or flushing are primarily attributed to
deviation in process control parameters and construction factors considered during mix design.
In order to address these shortcomings and further improve the reliability, modifications to mix
design are proposed by various agencies considering in-service variability. Thus, investigations
on the combined effect of mix design, production and in-service parameters on the performance
of microsurfacing mix in terms of rutting, ravelling, moisture and aging are critical for field
applications. Hence, to develop more understanding on the behaviour and implementation of
microsurfacing mix, the future research need from the reviewed literature could be summarised
as below.

• Investigation on interaction of process control parameter’s influence on microsurfacing

• Identification of critical combination and quantification of tolerance limits for process
control parameters
• Evaluating the effect of environmental condition, including curing time, temperature and
humidity on moisture loss, ravelling and rutting resistance of microsurfacing mix
• Assessment of microsurfacing mix durability considering moisture damage and aging
• Influence of pre-compaction on microsurfacing mix in reducing rutting rate, permeability
and associated moisture damage and aging.

In addition, the information related to impact of process control parameters on the performance
of microsurfacing would help in developing pay factors associated with variability in quality with
the help of field investigations.

Authors would like to acknowledge the support provided by IIT Guwahati, India.
Road Materials and Pavement Design 31

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Nishant Bhargava

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