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Bitumen Viscosity Testing Equipment and Test Procedures
Bitumen Viscosity Testing Equipment and
Test Procedures
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Published by Prof. Prithvi Singh Kandhal
This paper by Prithvi S. Kandhal describes bitumen viscosity testing equipment and test
procedures with pictures. Viscosity is tested at 60 C temperature using a vacuum capillary
viscometer. Viscosity at 60 C is measured to check the...
This paper by Prithvi S. Kandhal describes bitumen viscosity testing equipment and test
procedures with pictures. Viscosity is tested at 60 C temperature using a vacuum capillary
viscometer. Viscosity at 60 C is measured to check the viscosity grade (VG) of the paving
bitumen in accordance to Indian Standard IS:73:2006. This document will assist the suppliers
and users in India is preparing the testing laboratory for viscosity measurements. A rotational
viscometer cannot be used for measuring viscosity at 60 C.
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Published by: Prof. Prithvi Singh Kandhal on Sep 03, 2009
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BITUMEN VISCOSITY TESTING EQUIPMENT AND TEST PROCEDURES
By Prof. Prithvi Singh Kandhal Jaipur, India
PROCURING TEST EQUIPMENT
The following testing equipment is needed to measure absolute viscosity of viscosity graded
paving bitumen (IS:73:2006) at 60 C in accordance with IS:1206 (Part II) (similar to ASTM D
2171), which uses a vacuum capillary viscometer. It should be noted that any other viscometer
such as rotational viscometer
cannot
be used to measure the absolute viscosity at 60 C since the bitumen in nonNewtonian in nature
at this temperature. While obtaining quotations specify the following requirements. Although
Asphalt Institute vacuum viscometer and Modified Koppers vacuum viscometer can also be
used, the following refers to Cannon-Manning vacuum viscometer only.
Complete Absolute Viscosity Testing Equipment
conforming to IS:1206 (Part II) Method for Testing Tar and Bitumen Materials: Determination of
Absolute Viscosity with the following components: 1. Constant Temperature Bath A suitable
bath for immersion of at least 6 vacuum capillary viscometer tubes with a digital temperature
controller. The accuracy of the temperature in the bath should be +/- 0.1 C throughout the bath.
2. Silicone Bath Oil suitable up to 150 C 3. Vacuum System Capable of maintaining a vacuum
within +/- 0.05 cm of the desired level up to and including 30 cm of mercury. The system shall
consist of vacuum pump, moisture trap, vacuum regulator, manometer with electronic controller,
bleed valve, all interconnecting tubing/piping, and any other accessories as needed to complete
the vacuum system. 4. Thermometer for Bath Mercury in glass, range 37.8 to 82 C, and
graduations of 0.2 C. 5. Timing Device A stop watch or stop clock capable of reading up to
second. 6. Cannon-Manning Vacuum Viscometers- With manufacturers calibration certificate,
viscometer holder and silicone cork. Size 12 and Size 13 (one each) [Size 12 is suitable for
testing VG-10 and Size 13 is suitable for testing VG-20, VG-30, and VG-40 bitumen.] 7.
Viscometer Stand for holding 6 viscometers. 8. Installation of the quoted instrument in clients
laboratory and operational training. Note: Only the Cannon-Manning viscometer tubes need to
be imported at this time, the remaining equipment such as bath and vacuum system are
available in India.
However, be aware of water bath and vacuum control systems manufactured in India, many do
not give the accuracy and consistency needed for the test (viscosity is very sensitive to small
variations in temperature and vacuum level). Try them out carefully before buying them. If not
satisfactory, these systems may have to be imported.
TEST PROCEDURE
Follow the procedure given in IS:1206 (Part II). Some outline is given below:
Preparation of Sample
: Heat the bitumen sample to a temperature not more than 90 C above its approx. softening
point until is has become sufficiently fluid (like motor oil) to pour easily (Photo 1). Transfer about
20 ml into a suitable container (Photo 2) and maintain at a temperature of 135 +/- 5.5 C stirring
occasionally to allow entrapped air to escape. Pour the hot bitumen in the Canning-Manning
vacuum viscometer through the larger diameter filling tube A so that bitumen is within +/- 2 mm
of the fill line E. Place the charged viscometer in an oven or bath maintained at 135 +/- 5.5 C for
a period of 10 +/- 2 minutes to allow larger air bubbles to escape.
Testing:
Maintain the test bath temperature
at 60 +/- 0.1 C. Place the charged viscometer vertically in the test bath with the help of a holder
so that that the uppermost timing mark is at least 2 cm below the surface of the bath liquid
(Photo 3). Establish a vacuum of 30 +/- 0.05 cm of mercury in the vacuum system and connect
to the viscometer with the valve closed. After the viscometer has been in the bath for 30 +/- 5
min, open the valve and allow the bitumen to flow in the viscometer. Measure the time required
(to within +/- 0.5 sec) for the leading edge of the meniscus to pass between successive pairs of
timing marks (Photo 4 and 5). Report the first flow time which exceeds 60 sec between a pair of
timing marks, noting the identification of the pair of the timing marks.
Calculation:
Calculate (Photo 6) and report the absolute viscosity in poises to three significant figures as
follows: Viscosity in poises = K t Where: K = Calibration factor in poise per second supplied with
the viscometer tube for the pair of timing marks where the flow time exceeded 60 seconds. t =
flow time in seconds
Report:
Report the test temperature and vacuum level with the viscosity test results such as viscosity in
poises @ 60 C and 300 mm mercury vacuum.
Note
: Kinematic viscosity at 135 C also needs to be determined for the paving bitumen as specified
in IS:73:2006. At this temperature, bitumen flows readily so no vacuum needs to be applied.
Follow IS: 1206 (Part III) Methods for Testing Tar and Bituminous Materials: Determination of
Kinematic Viscosity, to select the proper
Viscometer tube given in there. The same oil bath as used for absolute viscosity can be used,
just the viscometer tube will be different (Photo 7). As an alternate, one can also use a rotational
viscometer which will also give the same results because the bitumen is Newtonian in nature at
135 C. The purchase and use of rotational viscometer is encouraged because it can also be
used for modified binders and also for Superpave Performance Graded (PG) binders, which are
expected to be adopted in the near future. Again, rotational viscometer cannot be used to
measure the absolute viscosity at 60 C. 18 November 2013
PHOTOGRAPHS
(Courtesy: The Asphalt Institute)
PHOTO 1
. Bitumen sample being heated in oven so that it can be poured

PHOTO 2. Bitumen being poured in small cans PHOTO 3. Absolute viscosity
testing equipment showing bath with viscometers (left) and vacuum controller
with manometer (right)

PHOTO 4. Flow time being measured with a stop watch PHOTO 5. Close up of two
Cannon-Manning vacuum viscometers; flow is taking place in the left viscometer
under vacuum