Difference Between Bitumen And Tar

What Is Bitumen?

Bitumen is a material that is extensively used to make flexible pavement roads. It is a combination of different organic matters such as vegetation, dead insects, algae, etc.

Bitumen is a product of petroleum and is obtained by the process of distillation of petroleum crude in the refinery. Also, the bitumen consists of aromatic hydrocarbons.

Bitumen is generally found in either solid-state or semi-solid state, respectively. The color of bitumen is black or brownish-black.

Bitumen is made up of 3 elements. They are – carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, respectively. The proportions of all three compounds in bitumen are as follows:


  • Carbon – 87%
  • Hydrogen – 11%, and
  • Oxygen – 2%

Bitumen, as said, is formed using the combination of different organic matters. So it is mostly found where there the growth of vegetation is in a considerably good quantity.

Formation Of Bitumen

Bitumen occurs naturally where vegetation growth is in more quantity. It is formed from the remains of dead plants, insects, algae, and other organic matter present in nature.

It was believed that the remains of such dead plants, animals, and organisms at the bottom of water bodies, such as lakes and oceans, were deposited in the mud. So due to the pressure and heat under the earth, a substance was formed. This substance is known as bitumen.

Besides this, there are also some alternate sources from where the bitumen Is obtained. These alternate sources of bitumen are as follows:

Sugar, molasses, and starch from potatoes, corn, and rice. Bitumen is also formed from waste materials using the fractional distillation process.

Properties Of Bitumen

  • Bitumen is a black-colored viscous substance found naturally as well as artificially.
  • Bitumen is usually found in solid and semi-solid forms, respectively.
  • The specific gravity of bitumen is 1.09
  • It is adhesive and can bind with other materials when it is in its liquified state.
  • Bitumen does not let the water pass through it as it is a highly impermeable material.
  • It is a chemically inert material.

Uses Of Bitumen

1. Bitumen is primarily used for making the pavements of roads. Road pavement made up of bitumen is known as flexible pavement.

2. Bitumen is an impermeable material preventing water from passing through it. So it is used to fill up the leaky joints in roofs of houses.

3. It is used as a damp-proof course (DPC) in walls, basements, lining tanks, swimming pools, urinals, etc.

4. It was earlier used as a sealing agent for boats and baskets.

What Is Tar?

Tar is a liquified substance containing a high amount of carbon content. Tar is a liquid having high viscosity. Like bitumen, tar is also made up of a combination of different organic substances. The color of tar is jet black.

Tar is highly sensitive to temperature changes. At low temperatures, tar becomes hard and brittle, while tar becomes soft and liquified at a higher temperatures.

Due to this, tar is not suitable for locations where the temperature fluctuates rapidly and frequently. Unlike bitumen, the viscosity of tar is low. Tar is widely used for various purposes as it is a cheap material and also it is easily available.

Formation Of Tar

Tar is formed in many ways. Depending on how the tar is formed, it will have different properties accordingly. Mainly, tar is obtained in two varieties that are commonly used. They are coal tar and wood tar. Coal tar is obtained from petroleum, where wood tar is obtained from vegetation.

Uses Of Tar

  • Tar is used to make road pavements, like bitumen.
  • It is also used for making roofs of houses.
  • It is used as a sealing agent which is used to seal boots and roof tiles.
  • Coal tar is used as a preservative for wood.

Difference Between Bitumen And Tar

1. There are many differences between bitumen and tar. Let us see them in detail below. The major differences between bitumen and tar are as follows:

2. Bitumen is derived from sources associated directly with coal and oil, whereas tar is derived from sources like wood, petrol, and coal.

3. Bitumen is usually obtained in solid as well as semi-solid form, whereas tar is obtained only in liquified form.

4. Bitumen is obtained naturally, whereas tar is occurred artificially and needs distillation.

5. Bitumen is relatively costlier than tar, whereas tar is a cheaper material.

6. Bitumen is less sensitive to temperature changes, whereas tar is highly sensitive to temperature changes.

7. Bitumen has more resistant to weathering, whereas tar is less resistant to weathering.

8. Bitumen has a moderate amount of carbon content, whereas tar has a high amount of carbon content.

9. Bitumen is black or brownish-black in color, whereas tar is jet-black.

10. Bitumen is relatively less adhesive, whereas tar is highly adhesive as it is in liquid form.

11. Bitumen is highly durable, whereas tar is relatively less durable.

12. Bitumen has relatively low specific gravity, whereas tar possesses maximum specific gravity.

Also Read

Concrete Road Vs Asphalt Road – Which Is Better?
Types Of Bituminous Roofing

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