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The term bitumen refers to a substance produced through the distillation of crude oil. Bitumen is known for its waterproofing and adhesive properties and is commonly used in the construction industry, notably for roads and highways.

Bitumen is a byproduct of crude oil. it is composed of complex hydrocarbons and contains elements like calcium, iron, sulfur, and oxygen. The quality of material and ease of production depends on the source and type of crude oil from which it is derived. It was first used for its natural adhesive and waterproofing characteristics, helping to bind building materials together, as well as to line ship bottoms.

Bitumen can deform permanently under heavy loads. Continued stress on the material can result in cracking. It oxidizes, which can leave the asphalt brittle. The way its shape is affected depends on a few things, including the composition of the asphalt mixture and the ambient temperature.

As noted above, bitumen isn’t just produced by distilling crude oil, it’s also a naturally-occurring product. The term is also used to refer to oil sands or partially consolidated sandstone containing a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay, and water that is saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum.

Bitumen Uses

The product has several modern uses. It’s generally meant for industrial use and is commonly found in road paving. The majority of U.S. roads are made of either bitumen or a combination of bitumen and aggregates, such as concrete.