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 (70%) 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".
Naturally occurring asphalt/bitumen is sometimes specified by the term "crude bitumen". Its viscosity is similar to that of cold molasses, while the material obtained from the fractional distillation of crude oil boiling at 525 °C (977 °F) is sometimes referred to as "refined bitumen".
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