How are Emulsions Named & Classified?

You can learn a lot from a name

Emulsions are named based on their properties. What may seem like a complex series of numbers and letters can be easily broken into components that describe a specific emulsion’s behavior and chemical makeup. Some states and agencies use different naming conventions that meet local needs, but the majority of emulsions follow these standards:

Ionic Charge

Formulated for compatibility with specific aggregates and components

  • Cationic (Positive Charge)

    Often designed to break chemically, making these emulsions more compatible with nighttime or cooler climate applications.

  • Anionic (Negative Charge)

    These emulsions tend to rely on evaporative breaking.

  • Nonionic (No Charge)

    Some emulsions are non-ionic (without charge), though these are few.

Aggregate Coating Thickness

Utilizes a chemical formulation that promotes a gel quality to the emulsion, increasing performance

  • High Float Emulsion

    Used in chip seals, cold mixes & road mixes.

    • Emulsifier forms a gel structure in asphalt residue to create a thicker asphalt film
    • Wider temperature range to prevent flowing in hot temperatures and cracking in cold temperatures
  • Non High-Float Emulsions

    Emulsions which are not specifically high-float.

Speed at Which Emulsions are Set

Engineered for optimal break time and workability

  • Rapid Set Emulsion

    Generally used in spray applications like chip seals, scrub seals and surface treatments.

    • Least stable; break rapidly in contact with aggregate
    • Little to no ability to mix with aggregates
    • A polymer may be added to increase adhesion and shorten return-to-traffic times
    • Break is primarily chemical
  • Medium Set Emulsion

    Used in cold recycling, cold and warm dense-graded aggregate mixes, and patch mixes.

    • Designed to remain workable for a few minutes to several months
    • Coats aggregates during mixing and breaks soon after application
    • Mixes with aggregates in pug mills, travel plants, or in-situ
  • Slow Set Emulsion

    Used in dense-graded aggregate bases, slurry seals, soil stabilization, asphalt surface courses and some recycling. Is often diluted with water to be used in tack coat, fog seal and dust palliatives.

    • Most stable with maximum mixing time & extended workability
    • Compatible with many types of fillers and additives
    • Works with fine aggregates
    • Breaks primarily through water evaporation
  • Quick Set Emulsion

    Used in micro-surfacing and slurry seal.

    • Works with fine aggregates with faster break
    • Include polymers and other additives for thicker lifts and faster curing

Viscosity & Hardness

To accommodate specific application methods and climates

  • Lower Viscosity Emulsion

    More fluid; designed to flow into aggregate.

    • Typically used in penetrating primes & prime coats
  • Higher Viscosity Emulsion

    Thicker; designed to cling to aggregate.

    • Typically used in mixing emulsions
  • Harder Base Asphalt

    Thicker, less pliable.

    • Performs well in hotter climates; less likely to run when heated
  • Softer Base Asphalt

    Thinner, more pliable.

    • Performs well in colder climates; more resistant to cracking

Polymers & Additives

To achieve strength, adhesion, elasticity, durability or other performance demands

  • Polymers Added

  • Latex Polymers Added

  • Polymers Added (Non-Standard)



  • Cationic
  • Rapid Set
  • Lower Viscosity
  • Harder Base


  • Cationic
  • High Float
  • Rapid Set
  • Higher Viscosity
  • Polymers


  • Anionic/Nonionic
  • Slow Set
  • Lower Viscosity
More About Emulsions