What is Bitumen?
History of Bitumen
Modern Usages of Bitumen
Uses of Bitumen
Bitumen Resources
Geological origin of Bitumen
Grades of Bitumen

Uses of Bitumen

Bitumen (or asphalt) is primarily used, when mixed with mineral aggregates, to produce paving materials. Its other main uses are for bituminous waterproofing products, including production of roofing felt and for sealing flat roofs.
 
 Most natural bitumen contain sulfur and several heavy metals such as nickel, vanadium, lead, chromium, mercury and also arsenic, selenium, and other toxic elements. Bitumen can provide good preservation of plants and animal fossils.
 
 Naturally occurring crude bitumen impregnated in sedimentary rock is the prime feed stock for petroleum production from "oil sands", currently under development in Alberta, Canada. Canada has most of the world´s supply of natural bitumen, covering 140,000 square kilometers (an area larger than England), giving it the second largest proven oil reserves in the world. The Athabasca oil sands is the largest bitumen deposit in Canada and the only one accessible to surface mining, although recent technological breakthroughs have resulted in deeper deposits becoming producible by in-situ methods. Because of oil price increases since 2003, upgrading bitumen to synthetic crude oil has become highly profitable. As of 2006 Canadian crude bitumen production averaged about 1.1 million barrels (170,000 m3) per day and was projected to rise to 4.4 million barrels (700,000 m3) per day by 2020. The total amount of crude bitumen in Alberta which could be extracted is estimated to be about 310 billion barrels (50×10^9 m3), which at a rate of 4,400,000 barrels per day (700,000 m3/d) would last about 200 years.
 
 In the past, bitumen was used to waterproof boats, and even as a coating for buildings with some additives. The Greek historian Herodotus said hot bitumen was used as mortar in the walls of Babylon. It is also possible that the city of Carthage was easily burnt due to extensive use of bitumen in construction.
 
 Bitumen was also used in early photographic technology. It was most notably used by French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in the first picture ever taken. The bitumen used in his experiments were smeared on pewter plates and then exposed to light, thus making a black and white image. It was similarly used to print millions of photochrom postcards.
 
 Thin bitumen plates are sometimes used by computer enthusiasts for silencing computer cases or noisy computer parts such as the hard drive. Bitumen layers are baked onto the outside of high end dishwashers to provide sound insulation. Bitumen also is used in paint and marker inks by some graffiti supply companies (primarily Molotov) to increase the weather resistance and permanence of the paint and/or ink, and to make the color much darker.
 
 Bitumen was the nemesis of many artists during the 19th century. Although widely used for a time, it ultimately proved unstable for use in oil painting, especially when mixed with the most common diluents, such as linseed oil, varnish and turpentine. Unless thoroughly diluted, bitumen never fully solidifies and will in time corrupt the other pigments with which it comes into contact. The use of bitumen as a glaze to set in shadow or mixed with other colors to render a darker tone resulted in the eventual deterioration of a good many paintings, those of Delacroix being just one notable example.


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