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Use of Bitumen in Construction

Bitumen is obtained from the fractional distillation of crude petroleum. It has adhesive properties, and it has added oil while manufacturing the names of kerosene, spirit, volatile oils, etc. It is most widely used on roads as it is an excellent binder and binds the materials for durability, recyclability, and usability for roads. It is used widely used for the construction of flexible pavements. It has excellent waterproofing properties, low-cost material, and is dark or black. It is often confused with tar as it has similar properties. Tar is obtained by destructive distillation such as coal or wood, while bitumen is not. Apart from this, bitumen is soluble in carbon disulphide, and tar is soluble in benzene or nitrobenzene. It’s scope in improvement is limitless as it has flexibility in properties and is expected to be environment friendly during the course of time. All these properties and the effectiveness of bitumen are discussed here in this article.

Fig 1- Bitumen
Fig 1: Bitumen
Courtesy: Raha Bitumen

Properties of Bitumen
Some of the properties of bitumen are –

Types of Bitumen
There are various types of bitumen that have variations in their properties. Some of them are –
1.Viscosity Graded Bitumen is one such bitumen based on absolute viscosity at 60 ºC or a kinematic viscosity at 135 ºC. It is used in the form of paving grade bitumen for producing asphalt pavements that are used in road constructions.
Fig 2- Viscosity Graded Bitumen
Fig 2: Viscosity Graded Bitumen
Courtesy: Pars Universal Bitumen

2. Performance Graded Bitumen – Here, the temperature is the main factor that produces varying properties in bitumen, allowing customers to select or customize their needs in implementation. Such type of bitumen is restrained to fully characterize asphalt binder for use in Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) pavement.
Fig 3- Performance Graded Bitumen
Fig 3: Performance Graded Bitumen
Courtesy: HJ OIL Group

3. Penetration Graded Bitumen – It is classified based on the needle’s depth of penetration under particular test conditions. The penetration of a needle in bitumen indicates how stiff the bitumen is. More penetration implies a stiffer bitumen. It is specified as 50/70, which means 50 mm to 70 mm penetration under standard test conditions.
Fig 4- Penetration Graded Bitumen
Fig 4: Penetration Graded Bitumen
Courtesy: Sahara Business Group

4. Oxidized Graded Bitumen – The properties of bitumen can be changed by allowing air to pass through it by increasing temperature. The extent of the oxidation process can vary from small, often known as air-rectification, or semi-blowing, which has a slight impact on bitumen’s properties, to the whole blowing, where the properties are entirely altered. Naming and grading are based on a combination of the bitumen softening temperature when heated up, as expressed by the ring and ball softening point test and the penetration value.
Fig 5- Oxidized Bitumen
Fig 5: Oxidized Bitumen
Courtesy: ATDM. CO. LTD

5. Polymer Modified Bitumen is a mixture where the polymers alter the visco-elastic property of bitumen and transform it into a more suitable binder to handle different stress levels. The most common one is the styrene–butadiene–styrene (SBS), followed by other polymers such as styrene-butadiene–rubber (SBR), ethylene-vinyl-acetate (EVA), and polyethylene. One drawback is that they are costlier than pure bitumen, but on the other side these are more economical because of economic benefits for road repairs involving low costs.
Fig 6- Polymer Modified Bitumen
Fig 6: Polymer Modified Bitumen
Courtesy: Bitumen Emulsion- Globecore

Bitumen has been used in construction for a long time, ever since the road-making process has evolved. It does occur naturally, but when used as a binder on roads, it is added with some chemicals under standard conditions to improve its suitability. Researches are being made to produce more environment-friendly bitumen that has low carbon emissions and other harmful substances. Also, improvements are being made in bitumen properties so that in asphalt roads, it does not rip off easily, and more durable roads are generated. Although concrete blocks are taking over the market, it is still a primary choice in many countries due to its flexibility in changing properties. Nanostructures like nanotubes, graphene, ceramic, etc., are also used as additives in some areas, and they have proved to deliver the best results. New tests are also being processed to study deeply the bitumen properties that can be more effective in the construction industry. Hence, with the advent of time, it can be expected that the bitumen will solve all the problems ongoing in the field that require special attention by experts.

RAHA Bitumen Co, “Bitumen Types”-
Lone Star Paving, “Why Is Bitumen Used In Road Construction?”-
BuildersMART, “Applications & Uses of Bitumen in Construction”-
Civil Engineering Notes, “Introduction To Bitumen As Pavement Materials”-
Bitumina Hi-Tech Pavement Binders, “Viscosity Grade Bitumen (Asphalt)”-

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Kanwarjot Singh

Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.

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