What is the Difference Between Asphalt and Bitumen

Asphalt and bitumen are two materials with unique properties and applications in construction and paving. Understanding the difference between asphalt and bitumen helps to ensure that the right material is chosen for specific construction projects.

What is the difference between asphalt and bitumen? Bitumen is a single component and is a natural binding agent. In contrast, asphalt is a blend where bitumen is one of several ingredients mixed together.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Asphalt  
      – Definition, Features 
2. What is Bitumen
      – Definition, Features 
3. Similarities Between Asphalt and Bitumen
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Asphalt and Bitumen
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Asphalt and Bitumen 
      – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Asphalt, Bitumen

Difference Between Asphalt and Bitumen - Comparison Summary

What is Asphalt

Asphalt is a composite material that contains bitumen as a component. Bitumen is mixed with aggregates—crushed rock, sand, and gravel—to create a tough, durable material. This mixture is then heated and compacted to create a strong, flexible, and weather-resistant surface. Asphalt is a heterogeneous mixture, and its composition depends on its source. It mainly contains hydrocarbons, heteroatoms, and asphaltenes. There are saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons, making up about 80% or more of the asphalt. It also contains small amounts of oxygen, sulfur, and nitrogen as heteroatoms. Asphaltenes make up about 5-25% of asphalt. Asphalt acts as glue, binding other components, giving it adhesive properties.


There are many uses of asphalt. It’s relatively inexpensive to produce, and laying is quick. Its flexibility allows it to withstand seasonal temperature changes and the constant stress of traffic. Additionally, asphalt is recyclable, with old pavements being crushed and incorporated into new mixtures. Asphalt is used in roads, airport runways, playgrounds, and parking lots. Its waterproof property contributes to its usage in many fields.

What is Bitumen

Bitumen is a naturally occurring compound found in crude oil deposits. It is viscous and black or brown in color, with adhesive and waterproof properties. Bitumen can exist in various states, such as sticky liquids or solid-like masses. In addition to its natural availability, it can also be obtained as a byproduct of crude oil refining.


Bitumen has many uses, especially in the construction industry. Its primary use is in road construction, where it acts as the binding agent in asphalt, used to pave roads, highways, driveways, and parking lots. Bitumen’s adhesive nature holds the aggregate (crushed rock, sand, gravel) together, creating a durable and flexible surface.

Similarities Between Asphalt and Bitumen

  1. Both asphalt and bitumen originate from crude oil.
  2. They are both useful in road construction and paving.
  3. Both materials have adhesive properties.
  4. They are waterproof and weather-resistant.

Difference Between Asphalt and Bitumen


  • Asphalt is a composite material made by mixing bitumen with aggregates like crushed rock, sand, and gravel. Bitumen is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon found in crude oil deposits.


  • Asphalt is laid as a hot mixture and then compacted to create a smooth and durable surface. However, bitumen can exist in various states, such as sticky liquids or solid-like masses.


  • Asphalt is mainly used in road construction and paving, whereas bitumen is used as a binding agent in asphalt and in various other applications, including roofing, waterproofing, and sealing.


Although both are essential in road construction, there is a distinct difference between asphalt and bitumen. Bitumen, a natural binder, is a key ingredient in asphalt, which is a composite material mixed with aggregates for durability and flexibility. Asphalt is widely used due to its cost-effectiveness, quick application, recyclability, and ability to withstand weather and traffic stress.

FAQ: Asphalt and Bitumen

1. Is bitumen the same as asphalt?

No, they are not the same. Bitumen, a naturally occurring product found in crude oil, serves as the base material for asphalt. Asphalt, on the other hand, is a manufactured material created by mixing bitumen with aggregates like crushed rock, sand, and gravel.

2. Is bitumen cheaper than asphalt?

Yes, bitumen is generally cheaper than asphalt. As a raw material, bitumen is more cost-effective to produce compared to the processed asphalt mixture.

3. What are the disadvantages of asphalt?

The laying and compaction of asphalt require skilled labor and specialized equipment, adding to construction costs. Additionally, the weight of asphalt pavements can put stress on underlying structures and may require additional support in some cases. These are the disadvantages of asphalt.

4. What is better than asphalt?

Concrete is considered better than asphalt due to its greater durability and longevity. Concrete pavements can withstand heavier traffic loads and harsh weather conditions more effectively than asphalt. They are also less prone to cracking and rutting.

5. Is asphalt better than tar?

Yes, asphalt is generally better than tar due to its durability and performance. Asphalt has better resistance to wear and tear, weathering, and traffic loads compared to tar.


1. “Asphalt Concrete.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
2. “Bitumen.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Asphalt Close Up (24337981232)” By StockyPics – Asphalt Close Up (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Bitumen” By Daniel Tzvi – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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