Tests on Aggregate

Aggregate plays an important role in pavement construction. Aggregates influence, to a great extent, the load transfer capability of pavements. Hence it is essential that they should be thoroughly tested before using for construction. Not only that aggregates should be strong and durable, they should also possess proper shape and size to make the pavement act monolithically. Aggregates are tested for strength, toughness, hardness, shape, and water absorption.

In order to decide the suitability of the aggregate for use in pavement construction, following tests are carried out:

  1. Crushing test
  2. Abrasion test
  3. Impact test
  4. Soundness test
  5. Shape test
  6. Specific gravity and water absorption test
  7. Bitumen adhesion test

1.Crushing Test

Fig-1 Crushing Test Setup
Fig-1 Crushing Test Setup

One of the model in which pavement material can fail is by crushing under compressive stress. A test is standardized by IS: 2386 part-IV and used to determine the crushing strength of aggregates. The aggregate crushing value provides a relative measure of resistance to crushing under gradually applied crushing load.

The test consists of subjecting the specimen of aggregate in standard mould to a compression test under standard load conditions (See Fig-1). Dry aggregates passing through 12.5 mm sieves and retained 10 mm sieves are filled in a cylindrical measure of 11.5 mm diameter and 18 cm height in three layers. Each layer is tamped 25 times with at standard tamping rod. The test sample is weighed and placed in the test cylinder in three layers each layer being tamped again. The specimen is subjected to a compressive load of 40 tonnes gradually applied at the rate of 4 tonnes per minute. Then crushed aggregates are then sieved through 2.36 mm sieve and weight of passing material (W2) is expressed as percentage of the weight of the total sample (W1) which is the aggregate crushing value.

Aggregate crushing value = (W1/W2)*100

A value less than 10 signifies an exceptionally strong aggregate while above 35 would normally be regarded as weak aggregates.

Also Read: Crushing Test Procedure of Aggregate

Also read: Crushing Value Test Procedure of Aggregates

2.Abrasion Test

Fig-2 Los Angeles Abrasion Test Setup
Fig-2 Los Angeles Abrasion Test Setup

Abrasion test is carried out to test the hardness property of aggregates and to decide whether they are suitable for different pavement construction works. Los Angeles abrasion test is a preferred one for carrying out the hardness property and has been standardized in India (IS: 2386 part-IV).

The principle of Los Angeles abrasion test is to find the percentage wear due to relative rubbing action between the aggregate and steel balls used as abrasive charge.

Los Angeles machine consists of circular drum of internal diameter 700 mm and length 520 mm mounted on horizontal axis enabling it to be rotated (see Fig-2). An abrasive charge consisting of cast iron spherical balls of 48 mm diameters and weight 340-445 g is placed in the cylinder along with the aggregates. The number of the abrasive spheres varies according to the grading of the sample. The quantity of aggregates to be used depends upon the gradation and usually ranges from 5-10 kg. The cylinder is then locked and rotated at the speed of 30-33 rpm for a total of 500 -1000 revolutions depending upon the gradation of aggregates.

After specified revolutions, the material is sieved through 1.7 mm sieve and passed fraction is expressed as percentage total weight of the sample. This value is called Los Angeles abrasion value.

A maximum value of 40 percent is allowed for WBM base course in Indian conditions. For bituminous concrete, a maximum value of 35 percent is specified.

Also read: Los Angeles Abrasion Value Test Procedure of Aggregates

3.Impact Test

Fig-3 Impact Test Setup
Fig-3 Impact Test Setup

The aggregate impact test is carried out to evaluate the resistance to impact of aggregates. Aggregates passing 12.5 mm sieve and retained on 10 mm sieve is filled in a cylindrical steel cup of internal dia 10.2 mm and depth 5 cm which is attached to a metal base of impact testing machine. The material is filled in 3 layers where each layer is tamped for 25 numbers of blows (see Fig-3). Metal hammer of weight 13.5 to 14 Kg is arranged to drop with a free fall of 38.0 cm by vertical guides and the test specimen is subjected to 15 numbers of blows. The crushed aggregate is allowed to pass through 2.36 mm IS sieve. And the impact value is measured as percentage of aggregates passing sieve (W2) to the total weight of the sample (W1).

Aggregate impact value = (W1/W2)*100

Aggregates to be used for wearing course, the impact value shouldn’t exceed 30 percent. For bituminous macadam the maximum permissible value is 35 percent. For Water bound macadam base courses the maximum permissible value defined by IRC is 40 percent.

Also read: Impact Value Test Procedure of Aggregates

4.Soundness test

Soundness test is intended to study the resistance of aggregates to weathering action, by conducting accelerated weathering test cycles. The Porous aggregates subjected to freezing and thawing is likely to disintegrate prematurely. To ascertain the durability of such aggregates, they are subjected to an accelerated soundness test as specified in IS: 2386 part-V.

Aggregates of specified size are subjected to cycles of alternate wetting in a saturated solution of either sodium sulphate or magnesium sulphate for 16 – 18 hours and then dried in oven at 105 to 1100C to a constant weight. After five cycles, the loss in weight of aggregates is determined by sieving out all undersized particles and weighing.

The loss in weight should not exceed 12 percent when tested with sodium sulphate and 18 percent with magnesium sulphate solution.

Also Read: Soundness Test Procedure of Aggregates

5.Shape Tests

Fig-4 Flakiness Gauge
Fig-4 Flakiness Gauge

The particle shape of the aggregate mass is determined by the percentage of flaky and elongated particles in it. Aggregates which are flaky or elongated are detrimental to higher workability and stability of mixes.

The flakiness index is defined as the percentage by weight of aggregate particles whose least dimension is less than 0.6 times their mean size. Flakiness gauge (see Fig-4) is used for this test. Test procedure had been standardized in India (IS: 2386 part-I).

The elongation index of an aggregate is defined as the percentage by weight of particles whose greatest dimension (length) is 1.8 times their mean dimension. This test is applicable to aggregates larger than 6.3 mm. Elongation gauge (see Fig-5) is used for this test. This test is also specified in (IS: 2386 Part-I). However there are no recognized limits for the elongation index.

Fig-5 Elongation Gauge
Fig-5 Elongation Gauge

Also Read: Aggregate Flakiness Index Value Test Procedure

Also Read: Aggregate Elongation Index Value Test Procedure

6.Specific Gravity and Water Absorption

The specific gravity and water absorption of aggregates are important properties that are required for the design of concrete and bituminous mixes. The specific gravity of a solid is the ratio of its mass to that of an equal volume of distilled water at a specified temperature. Because the aggregates may contain water-permeable voids, so two measures of specific gravity of aggregates are used:

  1. Apparent specific gravity and
  2. Bulk specific gravity.

Apparent Specific Gravity, Gapp, is computed on the basis of the net volume of aggregates i.e the volume excluding water-permeable voids. Thus

Gapp = [(MD/VN)]/W


MD is the dry mass of the aggregate,

VN is the net volume of the aggregates excluding the volume of the absorbed matter,

W is the density of water.

Bulk Specific Gravity, Gbulk, is computed on the basis of the total volume of aggregates including water permeable voids. Thus

Gbulk = [(MD/VB)]/W


VB is the total volume of the aggregates including the volume of absorbed water.

Water Absorption: The difference between the apparent and bulk specific gravities is nothing but the water permeable voids of the aggregates. We can measure the volume of such voids by weighing the aggregates dry and in a saturated surface dry condition, with all permeable voids filled with water. The difference of the above two is MW.

MW is the weight of dry aggregates minus weight of aggregates saturated surface dry condition. Thus,

Water Absorption = (MW/MD)*100

The specific gravity of aggregates normally used in road construction ranges from about 2.5 to 2.9. Water absorption values ranges from 0.1 to about 2.0 percent for aggregates normally used in road surfacing.

Also read: Specific Gravity & Water Absorption Test Procedure of Aggregates

7.Bitumen Adhesion Test

Bitumen adheres well to all normal types of road aggregates provided they are dry and free from dust. In the absence of water there is practically no adhesion problem of bituminous construction.

Adhesion problem occurs when the aggregate is wet and cold. This problem can be dealt with by removing moisture from the aggregate by drying and increasing the mixing temperature. Further, the presence of water causes stripping of binder from the coated aggregates. This problem occurs when bitumen mixture is permeable to water.

Several laboratory tests are conducted to arbitrarily determine the adhesion of bitumen binder to an aggregate in the presence of water. Static immersion test is one specified by IRC and is quite simple. The principle of the test is by immersing aggregate fully coated with binder in water maintained at 400C temperature for 24 hours.

IRC has specified maximum stripping value of aggregates should not exceed 5%.

List of IS Codes Related to Aggregate Testing

Tests for Aggregates with IS codes

Property of Aggregate

Type of Test

Test Method

Crushing strength Crushing test IS : 2386 (part 4)
Hardness Los Angeles abrasion test IS : 2386 (Part 5)
Toughness Aggregate impact test IS : 2386 (Part 4)
Durability Soundness test IS : 2386 (Part 5)
Shape factors Shape test IS : 2386 (Part 1)
Specific gravity and porosity Specific gravity test and water absorption test IS : 2386 (Part 3)
Adhesion to bitumen Stripping value of aggregate IS : 6241-1971


Dr. Tom V Mathew (IIT Bombay)


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