Measurement and significance of the coefficient of thermal expansion of concrete in rigid pavement design

Jagannath Mallela, Ala Abbas, Tom Harman, Chetana Rao, Rongfang Liu, Michael I. Darter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is a fundamental property of concrete. It has long been known to have an effect on joint opening and closing in jointed plain concrete pavement, crack formation and opening and closing in continuously reinforced concrete pavement, and curling stresses and thermal deformations in both types of pavements. However, it has not been included as a variable either in materials specifications or in the structural design of concrete pavements. Hundreds of cores were taken from Long-Term Pavement Performance sections throughout the United States and were tested by FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center laboratory, using the AASHTO TP 60 test procedure. The CTE values were then assimilated into groups on the basis of aggregate types, and the mean and range of CTE were calculated. These results were then used in the new mechanistic-empirical pavement design guide to determine the significance of the measured range of CTE on concrete pavement performance. The CTE of the concrete was found to vary widely, depending on the predominant aggregate type used in the concrete. Sensitivity analysis showed CTE to have a significant effect on slab cracking and, to a lesser degree, on joint faulting. Its overall effect on smoothness was also significant. Given that CTE has not been used before in routine pavement structural design, the conclusion is that this design input is too sensitive to be ignored and must be fully considered in specifications and in the design process to reduce the risk of excessive cracking, faulting, and loss of smoothness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-46
Number of pages9
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1919
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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