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also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum. It may be found in natural deposits or may be a refined product; it is a substance classed as a pitch. Until the 20th century, the term asphaltum was also used.
The primary use of asphalt/bitumen is in road construction, where it is used as the glue or binder mixed with aggregate particles to create asphalt concrete. Its other main uses are for bituminous waterproofing products, including production of roofing felt and for sealing flat roofs.
The terms asphalt and bitumen are often used interchangeably to mean both natural and manufactured forms of the substance. In American English, asphalt (or asphalt cement) is the carefully refined residue from the distillation process of selected crude oils. Outside the United States, the product is often called bitumen. Geological terminology often prefers the term bitumen. Common usage often refers to various forms of asphalt/bitumen as "tar", such as at the La Brea Tar Pits. Another term, mostly archaic, refers to asphalt/bitumen as "pitch". The pitch used in this mixture is sometimes found in natural deposits but usually made by the distillation of crude oil.
Naturally occurring asphalt/bitumen is sometimes specified by the term "crude bitumen"; its viscosity is similar to that of cold molasses. whilst the material obtained from the fractional distillation of crude oil [boiling at 525 °C (977 °F)] is sometimes referred to as "refined bitumen".
Etymology, asphalt , Bitumen:
The word asphalt is derived from the late Middle English, in turn from French asphalte, based on Late Latin asphalton, asphaltum, which is the latinisation of the Greek ἄσφαλτος (ásphaltos, ásphalton), a word meaning "asphalt/bitumen/pitch", which perhaps derives from α- "without" and σφάλλω, (sfallō), "make fall". Note that in French, the term asphalte is used for naturally occurring bitumen-soaked limestone deposits, and for specialised manufactured products with fewer voids or greater bitumen content than the "asphaltic concrete" used to pave roads. Another description has it that the term derives from the Accadian term asphaltu or sphallo, meaning "to split". It was later adopted from the Homeric Greeks as a verb meaning "to make firm or stable", "to secure". It is a significant fact that the first use of asphalt by the ancients was in the nature of a cement for securing or joining together various objects, and it thus seems likely that the name itself was expressive of this application. From the Greek, the word passed into late Latin, and thence into French (asphalte) and English ("asphaltum" and "asphalt").
The expression "bitumen" originated in the Sanskrit, where we find the words jatu, meaning "pitch," and jatu-krit, meaning "pitch creating", "pitch producing" (referring to coniferous or resinous trees). The Latin equivalent is claimed by some to be originally gwitu-men (pertaining to pitch), and by others, pixtumens (exuding or bubbling pitch), which was subsequently shortened to bitumen, thence passing via French into English. From the same root is derived the Anglo Saxon word cwidu (mastix), the German word Kitt (cement or mastic) and the old Norse word kvada.
Neither of the terms asphalt or bitumen should be confused with tar or coal tars.