What is Asphalt?

Doug EnrightApril 8, 2014

Asphalt, or bitumen, is a type of black, sticky liquid that is used in construction, building and other projects. It's used as a glue or binder. You know what asphalt is because you drive on it every day. It's also used in roofing, to make concrete in some cases and as a filler. Let's learn more about asphalt and how it's used every day across the country.

More About Asphalt

Asphalt is a viscous liquid, sticky to the touch, although you'd rarely want to actually touch it when using it. It's used to bind or glue things together, so it's sticky and hard to get off skin. It can be found naturally in mineral deposits and it can be a refined product created in a factory.

Asphalt's primary use is for road construction projects. More than 70% of its use come from this aspect of construction. When used in other projects, it can be used as a binder, for waterproofing projects and can be used on roofs. As you can see, asphalt has few uses but the uses it has are important for construction and pavement.

Bitumen is another name for asphalt. It's often used interchangeably with the term asphalt, although this isn't as accurate. Asphalt refers to the residue refined from the distillation of crude oil. In the US, this is the accurate description of asphalt. Outside the US, most countries call asphalt bitumen instead although they relatively mean the same thing.

You've probably heard of the La Brea Tar Pits. This tar is actually asphalt or bitumen that's developed, churned and created large pits over the last few centuries. Many tourists travel across the world and the US to see them up close and person. This phenomenon has happened in other places across the world, but the La Brea Tar Pits are the most famous and have been depicted in a variety of movies, TV shows and documentaries over the years.

Without asphalt, we'd have no roads, no highways and no ways to get to and fro. We'd be traveling on dirt roads and worse. Asphalt makes travel that much easier around the world.

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