Alteration of π-Electron Distribution to Induce Deagglomeration in Oxidized Polar Aromatics and Asphaltenes in an Aged Asphalt Binder

Farideh Pahlavan, Albert M. Hung, Mehdi Zadshir, Shahrzad Hosseinnezhad, Ellie H. Fini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This paper features electronic evaluation explaining molecular association and dissociation during oxidative aging and rejuvenation process in polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Specifically, we employ both computational modeling and laboratory experiments to show how the presence of external stimuli such as biorejuvenator can alter π-electron distribution to further induce deagglomeration. To better link findings to real-world materials and application, the study is done on the oxidized asphaltene and resin molecules; in addition, the disturbance of electron distribution is done using a biorejuvenator derived from animal waste. As petroleum asphalt binder oxidizes, the association forces between polar aromatics are strengthened owing to the introduction of polar chemical functionalities to their molecular structure. This is evidenced by X-ray diffraction (XRD) measurements showing that a new peak at high d-spacing appears after oxidation that is consistent with graphene-oxide-like (GO-like) structures. The GO-like structures become amorphous after the addition of biorejuvenator (BR), and the related peak in the XRD spectra vanishes. Density functional theory calculations show a destructive effect of BR on the π-π interaction between polyaromatics in the aggregation. The resulting π-electron disruption is induced by the polar head of biorejuvenator with electron-withdrawing nature and its hydrocarbon tail with the ability of CH-π stacking with oxidized asphalt molecule. This, in turn, indicates that the biorejuvenator can act to restore oxidized asphalt binder by disassembling asphaltene agglomerates and disrupting resinous GO-like structures through a three-stage mechanism: partial penetration into small pores around agglomerates, partial segregation of agglomerates, and finally dispersion of smaller agglomerates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6554-6569
Number of pages16
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 7 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aged asphalt binder
  • Asphaltene
  • Biorejuvenator
  • Density functional theory (DFT)
  • Oxidative aging
  • Rejuvenation mechanism
  • X-ray diffraction (XRD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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