It is a common misconception that bitumen and asphalt are interchangeable words used to describe the same material. In reality, they are two completely different materials used for the same purpose. Bitumen is the liquid binding agent used to bind asphalt together.
What is Bitumen?
Bitumen is a liquid compound made from petroleum. More specifically, it is made by distilling crude oil. It is a sticky, thick and durable material that is resistant to water damage and oil spills. It is mixed with an aggregate mixture to create asphalt for roads and surfaces. As it is a central material used to make roads, it is often confused with asphalt. Bitumen is an adhesive, primarily used to seal and bind layers of aggregate.
What is Asphalt?
Asphalt is used to describe the final material used for roads and surfaces. Asphalt is a material made by combining a bitumen binding agent with aggregates such as stones, sand, gravel, rock and slags. Asphalt is usually a black colour and is smooth when it sets. To apply asphalt to a surface it is heated and softened making it easier to pour. After it has been laid, it can take 2-3 days to dry and up to one year to be fully cured or fully hardened. After it has dried, asphalt is then sealed to protect it from cracking and deterioration. Sealer is typically applied 30 days after the asphalt has been laid.
What else is asphalt used for?
While asphalt is primarily used for roads, it can also be used for other purposes. These include reservoir linings, preventing damage on construction surfaces, roofs, floor tiling, coatings and waterproofing.
Asphalt on GreenHands
If you have a freshly demolished road surface or driveway, the leftover asphalt pieces can be ground up and used as aggregate. Its granular properties are perfect in an aggregate mixture and could even be used to make a new road! Check out our article on the benefits of using recycled asphalt here.