Articles & Facts

Multi-functional Performance of Hydrated Lime in Asphalt Pavements

EZ-Lime™ and EZ-Lime Plus™  

Quality and Environmental Improvements

Hydrated lime has been studied in laboratories and used in the field for over 40 years.   During that time it has earned the reputation as the premier asphalt additive to mitigate moisture sensitivity/adhesion failure.   In addition, lime contributes other benefits to asphalt pavements ranging from improved rutting and fatigue resistance, to retarding the rate at which pavements oxidize and age.   An excellent survey of hydrated lime’s benefits entitled, “The Benefits of Hydrated Lime in Hot Mix Asphalt” was written by Drs. Dallas Little and Jon Epps for the National Lime Association (NLA).   The paper can be downloaded from the NLA’s website at    Following is a summary of some of hydrated lime’s benefits. Also, the paper on EZ-lime and EZ-lime Plus pellets for use in lieu of the powder and added directly to the asphalt oil (bitumen) is available upon request at  

Moisture sensitivity – Hydrated lime mitigates moisture sensitivity in two major ways.   First, when applied to the surface of aggregates (particularly siliceous aggregates) it improves compatibility between the binder and aggregate (Kennedy and Ping, 1991).   Lime also reacts with acid components of the asphalt binder to create insoluble calcium salts that are hydrophobic.   The elimination of the acid components in the binder promotes the formation of strong nitrogen bonds between the asphalt and the aggregate (Petersen, 2005).

Fatigue resistance and fracture toughness – As described previously, hydrated lime reacts with acid components of the asphalt binder by adsorbing them onto the surface of the calcium.   The newly formed compounds have a greater effective volume than the traditional fillers that comprise the asphalt mastic.   The calcium-based particles intercept micro-cracks and deflect them, preventing the formation of macro-cracks.   Fatigue tests routinely demonstrate that asphalt mixtures containing hydrated lime can accommodate considerably more fatigue without failing than can mixtures made with common fillers (Little and Petersen, 2005).

Rutting resistance – Hydrated lime often has more than 50% of its bulk smaller than 5 mm.   Those small particles disperse throughout the asphalt mastic stiffening the mix through the “filler effect”.   These properties are improved by adding the lime directly to the bitumen during manufacture. That stiffening effect which has been shown to be substantially greater at high temperatures than equivalently sized traditional fillers does not adversely affect the low temperature properties of the mix.   At low temperatures hydrated lime’s activity is reduced and it behaves as traditional filler (Lesueur et al, 1998). Current data shows EZ-lime Plus pellets added to bitumen increases the Superpave PG-grade by one to two grade increases allowing for higher traffic loading.

Oxidation and aging – The reactions between hydrated lime and the acid components (generally carboxylic acids and 2-quinoline groups) of asphalt binders reduce the viscosity producing components of the asphalt.   As a consequence the asphalt binders retain greater ductility for a longer period of time than they otherwise would.   That greater ductility represents a reduced rate of oxidation in the pavement along with a reduction of the brittleness that contributes to cracking (Petersen et al, 1987).

Life cycle improvement – The synergistic benefits that the addition of hydrated lime contributes to asphalt pavements combine to extend the life of the pavements.   A study completed for the Nevada Department of Transportation compared the field performance of equivalent pavements with and without lime modification using both laboratory tests and analysis of the state’s pavement management records.   The study concluded that lime’s contributions extended the customary eight-year life of the pavements by an average of three years.   The savings attributed to the additional pavement life, along with savings resulting from reduced maintenance totaled 38% compared to a 12% higher first cost for the asphalt mix (Sebaaly et al, 2001).   Another study modeled life cycle costs of lime treated pavements versus non treated pavements based upon actual data provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), ten states, and ten contractors.   The analysis identified life cycle cost savings ranging from “$2 to $4 per square yard; or, $14,000 to $30,000/lane mile [3% to 40% of project life cycle costs]” (Hicks and Scholz, 2001).   The cost savings were based solely on an analysis of moisture sensitivity and did not consider the numerous other benefits of hydrated lime which would further increase the life cycle benefits.

Numerous United States Departments of Transportation have successfully used hydrated lime in asphalt for many years, including


Year Use Began





South Carolina
















The reports available show an introduction with the following methods:

  • • Hydrated lime injected into drum mixer
  • • Ez-lime pellets injected into the asphalt oil
  • • Hydrated lime added to aggregate in pug mill
  • • Dry hydrated lime added to moist aggregate with marination
  • • Slurry lime added to aggregate with or without marination

All of these methods have proven successful in producing asphalt mixes with enhanced performance.   Records indicate that mixing with the bitumen prior to adding the aggregate accomplishes many of the benefits with addition of 30% less hydrated lime. Test data shows a more effective utilization of the hydrated lime with the use of EZ-lime pellets than current wasteful and environmentally dangerous slurries, marinating (rain water run-off dangers) and blowing dust at the manufacturing facilities. This dust issue is a real safety concern with many contractors in the USA. Regardless of the method used, hydrated lime effectively reacts with both the aggregate and the binder in asphalt mixes.

The list of resources at the end of this report provides additional information on the use of hydrated lime in asphalt and contact information for technical experts within lime companies.

In the final analysis there is no doubt that hydrated lime is not only the best moisture sensitivity additive available, but also an additive that contributes many other benefits to asphalt pavements.   Those benefits work together synergistically to extend pavement life and improve performance.   Even the best liquid antistripping additives only affect the adhesion between bitumen and aggregate.   Studies that compare hydrated lime and liquid antistripping additives over multiple freeze/thaw cycles conclude that ultimately lime lasts longer and performs better (Kennedy and Ping, 1991).   Considering the many other benefits that hydrated lime contributes to asphalt mixtures it is undoubtedly the best (and most economical) choice for high performance pavements.


Eric Berger, PE. – Lhoist/Chemical Lime Co. Ft. Worth, Texas

Association of Asphalt Paving Technologists,

The Lime Association will provide copies of the following papers on request.

  • Hicks, R.G. and Scholz, “Life Cycle Costs for Lime in Hot Mix Asphalt”, National Lime Association, 2001.

  • Lesueur, D., Little, D. N., Epps, J. A., “Effect of Hydrated Lime on the Rheology, Fracture and Aging of Bitumen and Asphalt Mixtures”, Paper Presented at Lhoist HMA Symposium, Dusseldorf, Germany, June 1998.

  • Little, D.N. and Epps, J. A., “The Benefits of Hydrated Lime in Hot Mix Asphalt”, National Lime Association, 2001.

  • Little, D.N. and Petersen, J. C., “Unique Effects of Hydrated Lime Filler on the Performance-Related Properties of Asphalt Cements: Physical and Chemical Interactions Revisited”, Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, March/April 2005.

  • Kennedy, T. W. and Ping, W. V., “Evaluation of Effectiveness of Antistripping Additives in Protecting Asphalt Mixtures from Moisture Damage”, Journal of the Association of Asphalt Paving Technologists, from the Proceedings of Technical Sessions, 1991.

  • Petersen, J. C., “Mechanism of the Hydrated Lime – Asphalt Reaction: Its Effect on Pavement Moisture Resistance, Asphalt Age-Hardening and Physical Properties”, Presentation at North Carolina State University, February 2005.

  • Petersen, J. C., Plancher, H., Harnsberger, P. M., “Lime Treatment of Asphalt to Reduce Age Hardening and Improve Flow Properties”, AAPT, Volume 56, 1987.

  • Sebaaly, P. E., McCann, M., Hitti, E., Epps, J. A., “Performance of Lime in Hot Mix Asphalt Pavements”, Nevada Department of Transportation, 2001.
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