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BS2000 : Part 49 : 1983

To introduce the student to amethod of testing to determine the penetration of semi-solid
and solid bituminous materials.

1. Penetrometer
2. Penetration needle
3. Sample container
4. Water bath
5. Transfer dish
6. Stopwatch
7. Thermometers

General Discussion

The consistency of penetration or oxidized bitumen is measured by the penetration test.

In this test a needle of specified dimensions is allowed to penetrate into a sample of
bitumen, under a known load (100g), at a fixed temperature (25°C), for a known time (5
second). The distance the needle penetrates, in units of decimillitre, dmm (0.1mm), is
termed the penetration. Therefore the greater the penetration of the needle the softer the
bitumen. Penetrations less than 2 and greater than 500 cannot be determined with
accuracy and even within this range the specified procedure has to be followed closely to
obtain reliable results. This test is the basis upon which penetration grade bitumen are
classified into standard penetration ranges.

For each test, three individual measurements of penetration are made. The average of the
three values is recorded to the nearest whole unit.

It is essential that the test methods are followed precisely, as even a slight variation can
cause large differences in the result. The most common errors are : poor sampling and
sample preparation; badly maintained apparatus and needles; and incorrect temperature
and timing. Temperature control is critical, control to ±0.1°C is essential. Needles must
be checked regularly for straightness, correct profile and cleanliness. Automatic timing
devices are needed for accuracy but must be checked regularly.


1. Heat the sample with care, stirring as soon as possible to prevent local
overheating, until it has become sufficiently fluids to pour.
2. Pour the sample into the sample container to a depth such that, when cooled to the
temperature of test, the depth of the sample is at least 10mm greater than the
depth to which the needle is expected to penetrate. Pour two separate portions for
each variation in test conditions.
3. Loosely cover each container as a protection against dust and allow to cool in the
atmosphere at a temperature between 15° and 30°C for 1 to 1.5h for the small
container and 1.5 to 2 h for the larger. Then place the two samples together with
the transfer dish in the water bath maintained at the prescribed temperature of test.
Allow the smaller (3oz) container to remain for 1 to 1.5h and the larger (6oz)
container to remain for 1.5 to 2 h.
4. Where the conditions of the test are not specifically mentioned, the temperature,
load and time are understood to be 25°C, 100g and 5 sec, respectively.
5. Examine the needle holder and guide to establish the absence of the water and
other extraneous matter. Clean a penetration needle with toluene or other suitable
solvent, dry with a clean cloth and insert the needle in the penetrometer.
6. Place the sample container in the transfer dish, cover the container completely
with water from the constant temperature bath and place the transfer dish on the
stand of the penetrometer.
7. Position the needle by slowly lowering it until its tip just makes contact with the
surface of the sample. This is accomplished by bringing the actual needle tip into
contact with its image reflected by the surface of the sample from a properly
placed source of light.
8. Either note the reading of the penetrometer dial or bring the pointer to zero.
Quickly release the needle holder for the specified period of time and adjust the
instrument to measure the distance penetrated in tenths of millimeter.
9. Make at least three determinations at points on the surface of the sample not less
than 10mm from the side of the container and not less than 10mm apart. Return
the sample and transfer dish to the constant temperature bath between
determinations. Use a clean needle for each determination. If the penetration is
greater than 200, use at least three needles leaving them in the sample until the
three determinations have been completed.
10. Report the result to the nearest whole unit the average of the three penetrations
whose values do not differ by more than the amounts shown in the following

Penetration 0-49 50-149 150-249 >250

Maximum difference between 2 4 6 8
highest and lowest determination

11. If the differences are exceed repeat the test using the second sample.
Temperature = 25°
Load = 100 g
Time = 5 seconds
Sample Determination 1 Determination 2 Determination 3 Mean
A 93 91 93 93+91+93
= 92.33