Difference Between Bitumen and Asphalt

Asphalt vs Bitumen

The bitumen is used to bind the road material together by spraying on it and then covered with aggregate whereas the asphalt is premix bitumen, aggregate, and sand mixture which applied on the surface through a paving machine as of required thickness.

Many times bitumen and asphalt are recognized as the same materials but there is a difference between bitumen and asphalt.

The asphalt materials are made of aggregate, bitumen, and sand; where bitumen works as binding material that holds asphalt together.

In a more simple word, bitumen may be known as the binding material for pavement like cement in concrete whereas asphalt is the concrete material for making the road.

Before direct going to what is the Difference between Bitumen and Asphalt, let’s get some important information about the two materials and their characteristics.

Read More: What is Pavement? Types of Pavement for Road Construction

What Is Bitumen?

In United State, bitumen also known as asphalt is a substance that forms through the distillation of crude oil.

It has waterproofing and adhesive properties. Bitumen is manufactured or produced by distillation removes lighter crude oil components, such as gasoline and diesel, leaving the “heavier” bitumen behind.

Difference Between Bitumen and Asphalt 3

The manufactured refines asphalt several times to improve its grade. Bitumen also can be found naturally like natural deposits occurring bitumen form at the bottom of ancient lakes, where prehistoric organisms have since decayed and have been subjected to heat and pressure.

Bitumen is a chemical form of hydrocarbon which is insoluble in water. But it has the property to completely dissolve in benzol, alkalies, alkaline carbonates, chloroform, bisulphide, naphtha, coal tar, petroleum spirits, oil of turpentine. This is the key difference between bitumen and asphalt.

It’s produced from 87% of carbon, 11% of hydrogen, 2 % of oxygen. The bitumen may have black or brown in color and it may produce in a solid, semi-solid state.

Advantages of Bitumen

If you thought asphalt is cheap, then you will be pleased to hear that bitumen is even cheaper. This is primarily due to the small process required to make raw bitumen prepared for use, which is very cheap and easy, hence the low cost for bitumen.

Unlike several other driveway surfaces, bitumen has the opportunity to be recycled, much like asphalt. This is because it can also be heated back up to a melting point, where it can then be surfaced once a suitable asphalt mixture has been prepared.

Disadvantages of Bitumen

If a bitumen surface becomes damaged, then it becomes a very unsafe surface to drive on. Not only that, but they also become extremely noisy, as well as risking the danger of wearing down your tires.

Much like asphalt, bitumen surfaces are also prone to damage because of the heat. In this case, the surface layer will become very soft and slick, which isn’t the most suitable surface for driving nor walking on.

Application of Bitumen

What Is Asphalt?

Asphalt is a material that is black or brown material that has a consistency varying from viscous liquid to glassy solid.

It is a waste product left in the process of distillation of petroleum or from natural deposits. Asphalt is made of two compounds hydrogen and carbon with minor proportions of nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen.

Asphalt Road Material
Difference Between Bitumen and Asphalt 4

What is Asphalt Made of?

Asphalt is made of mixers of materials like bitumen, aggregate, and sand used for constructing and maintaining roads, parking areas, railway tracks, ports, airport runways, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and also play- and sports areas.

Aggregates that are utilized in asphalt making can be crushed rock, sand, gravel, or slags. Nowadays, certain waste and by-products, such as construction and demolition debris, are being used as aggregates, which increase the sustainability of asphalt.

Generally, asphalt layers come on road structures above the formation level which includes unbound and bituminous-bound materials.

This layer provides strength to the pavement to distribute loads of traffic before it arrives at the formation level. Normally, pavements are made of different layers:

Application of Asphalt

  • Road Construction – Motor way to private accessing road
  • Vehicle parking area construction
  • Sports Construction
  • Recreation area construction

Advantages of Asphalt

Asphalt has gained a glowing reputation due to its durability, primarily the reason that it’s used for road surfaces.

It’s estimated that asphalt driveways can last over 20 years without a complete resurfacing, though there are several methods that can also prolong the lifespan even more.

If you are working with a strict budget, asphalt is a perfect choice for driveways and road surfaces. This is down to the low costs for the materials, as well as laboring thanks to the quick and simple laboring duties.

Disadvantages of Asphalt

Despite the great strength, it doesn’t mean that it’s not vulnerable to weather damage, not notably, extremely hot temperatures.

This is because the temperature can potentially heat up the asphalt, causing it to go soft and prone to further damage.

In order to lay the asphalt driveway, it’s important that the layer below is completely smooth and prepared. If this hasn’t been completed, then the asphalt surface that is being applied will also become unsafe to drive on.

Difference Between Bitumen and Asphalt

The following table shows the difference between asphalt and bitumen,

Bitumen is produced by distillation removes lighter crude oil components, such as gasoline and dieselAsphalt, black or brown petroleum-like material that has a consistency varying from viscous liquid to glassy solid.
Bitumen is like cement which works as binding material in road construction.Asphalt is like concrete which is made from mixer of bitumen, aggregate and sand.
Asphalt pavements are durable; with a layer depth of 25-40 mm and life span of 20+ years.Bitumen pavements are less durable; with a layer depth of 10-20 mm and lifespan of 5-10 years.
Surface made of asphalt is smoother and more skid-resistant, ensuring the driver’s safety and minimal noise.The loose fragments on bitumen pavements make the driving experience noisier and can wear down tires, consequently causing safety issues.
Reduced friction between tire and car; meaning better fuel economy and minimization of carbon dioxide emission.Higher frictional resistance of a bitumen pavement means less efficiency in energy utilization.
Asphalt is an impermeable material, thus the pavements do not leach. Therefore, they have a lesser chance of infiltrating and polluting the groundwaterExposure to bitumen leaching may cause deterioration of soil and groundwater quality.
Less sensitive to temperature compared to bitumen pavements. Negative impacts are seen only in extremely high or low temperature.Pavements are susceptible to high temperature, which can make it slick and soft.
Installation is comparatively costlier.Cheap to install compared to asphalt.
Cost effective. An asphalt surface doesn’t require regular maintenance like bitumen surface, rather a routine check periodically is enough.They require regular maintenance, especially when resurfacing a pavement with greater traffic volume. So not cost effective in the long run.
Difference between Bitumen and Asphalt


What is the difference between bitumen and asphalt?

Bitumen and asphalt are related materials commonly used in construction, but they have some key differences:
Bitumen: Bitumen is a sticky, black, and viscous petroleum-based substance. It is a semi-solid form of petroleum that occurs naturally or is obtained through the refining process. Bitumen is primarily used in the production of asphalt.
Asphalt: Asphalt is a mixture of bitumen and aggregates such as crushed stone, sand, and gravel. It is a composite material used for surfacing roads, driveways, parking lots, and other paved areas. Asphalt is created by heating bitumen and mixing it with aggregates.

Are bitumen and asphalt the same thing?

No, bitumen and asphalt are not the same. Bitumen is a component of asphalt, which is the final product used for paving. Asphalt consists of bitumen and aggregates, whereas bitumen is a standalone material that serves as the binder for the aggregates in asphalt.

Where are bitumen and asphalt used?

Bitumen is primarily used in the production of asphalt, which is widely used for surfacing roads, highways, parking lots, airport runways, and other paved areas. Bitumen is also utilized for waterproofing applications, such as in roofing materials, damp-proofing membranes, and insulation.

Which is more commonly used: bitumen or asphalt?

Asphalt is more commonly used than bitumen. Bitumen is a key component of asphalt, and it is the asphalt mixture that is extensively employed in paving projects due to its superior qualities in terms of strength, durability, and performance on road surfaces.

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1 thought on “Difference Between Bitumen and Asphalt”

  1. Comprehensive guide on the differences between asphalt and bitumen. Packed full of useful insights – great for anyone looking to understand these materials better.

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