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January 19th, 2016, 11:11 PM   #1
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Bitumen as petrochemical production and its properties

Bitumen is defined as “A viscous liquid, or a solid, consisting essentially of hydrocarbons and their derivatives, which is soluble in trichloro-ethyelene and is substantially nonvolatile and softens gradually when heated”. It is black or brown in colour & possesses waterproofing and adhesive properties. It is obtained by refinery processes from petroleum, and is also found as a natural deposit or as a component of naturally occurring asphalt, in which it is associated with mineral matte.
Bitumen has the following five characteristic properties.

Bitumen Adheres

Bitumen is Elastic

Bitumen is Plastic

Bitumen is Viscoelastic

Bitumen Ages

Bitumen Hardens


Bitumen has excellent adhesive qualities provided the conditions are favorable. However in presence of water the adhesion does create some problems. Most of the aggregates used in road construction possess a weak negative charge on the surface. The bitumen aggregate bond is because of a weak dispersion force. Water is highly polar and hence it gets strongly attached to the aggregate displacing the bituminous coating.


When one takes a thread of bitumen from a sample and stretches or elongates it, it has the ability to return to a length close to its original length eventually. For some bitumens this process may take longer than others. This property is referred to as the elastic character of bitumen.


When temperatures are raised, as well as when a load is applied to bitumen, the bitumen will flow, but will not return to its original position when load is removed. This condition is referred to as plastic behavior. Applying a load means that you put a weight on the bitumen in order to subject it to stress. This could be in a lab or in the bitumens final position in the road and it is done to assess the bitumens reaction to the load.


Bitumen has a Viscoelastic character. Its behavior may be either viscous or elastic depending on the temperature or the load it is carrying. At higher temperatures there is more flow or plastic behavior, while at lower temperatures and short duration loading, the bitumen tends to be stiff and elastic. At intermediate temperatures it tends to be a combination of the two.


Aging refers to changes in the properties of bitumen over time, which is caused by external condition. These changes are visible as cracks or crumbling areas. When bitumen is exposed to atmospheric conditions, the bitumen molecules react with oxygen, which results in a change of the structure and composition of the bitumen. This process of combining with oxygen, called oxidation, causes the bitumen to become brittle and hard and to change colour from dark brown or black to grey. This change is usually referred to as oxidative hardening or age hardening. This form of ageing occurs more frequently in warmer climatic or during warm seasons, causing older pavements to crack more easily. The condition can also occur where the surface films of bitumen are thin, or if there has been inadequate compaction during construction.


Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and the evaporation of volatile compounds can cause bitumen to harden. A volatile material is a material that can change in to a gas very quickly. There are two kinds of hardening:

Physical hardening

Exudative hardening

Physical hardening occurs when waxy crystals form in the bitumen structures, or when asphaltenes agglomerates clump together. This condition can be reversed if the temperature is raised.
Exudative hardening is caused by the absorption of oily components in the bitumen.

Last edited by greg1313; August 2nd, 2016 at 08:24 PM.
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March 30th, 2016, 09:21 AM   #2
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Hello nooshinkh,
Yes this is very interesting. One thing to note, is in my research, oil comes from tons and tons of plant material, that has changed over time, by having pressure and heat applied to it underground. Over a very long time the oil is the result. So it definitely starts as a solid, because the plant material is a solid. Personally, I think that bitumen falls in the liquid category, maybe with exceptions as a result of being heated or frozen. If bitumen is frozen, most people would probably say it is a solid.

The main interesting thing about it is is elasticity properties, which bring the thread back to its original shape, after being stretched out, given time, and a constant temperature.

When we think of solid, liquid, gas and even plasma, as the four states of matter in the universe, then where does bitumen fit into that list?
Glass is also as unique as bitumen in that respect.
Some people used to classify glass as a liquid, however nowadays it seems as if that myth has been disproven by researchers. (Note if you read the following article, some of the research is based on ancient amber which was never supercooled the way glass usually is, which may nullify part of their results.)

Read this:
"glass is a supercooled viscous substance that was vitrified — a massive change in physical properties in which a first-order phase transition was avoided (unlike the standard solid/liquid/gas state of matter transitions).

As a liquid cools, it crystallizes, which increases its viscosity (a measure of its resistance to flow). But when glass cools, it remains stuck in a solid-like state with no crystallization. Essentially, the viscosity of supercooled liquid rises until it becomes an amorphous solid or glass.

Research scientist Robert Brill explains more:
As is the case with liquids, the atoms making up a glass are not arranged in any regular order — and that is where the analogy arises. Liquids flow because there are no strong forces holding their molecules together. Their molecules can move freely past one another, so that liquids can be poured, splashed around, and spilled. But, unlike the molecules in conventional liquids, the atoms in glasses are all held together tightly by strong chemical bonds. It is as if the glass were one giant molecule. This makes glasses rigid so they cannot flow at room temperatures. Thus, the analogy fails in the case of fluidity and flow.

So glass, in this funky state of neither being a solid or liquid, has led some to assume that it’s still potentially in a state of flow.
FROM: The ‘glass is a liquid’ myth has finally been destroyed"

However, bitumen did go through a standard state transition solid/liquid/gas. And it was never super-cooled like glass at all.
I am guessing until it is extracted from the ground, and put into some kind of a holding tank, that it was ever cooled down to anything approaching room temperatures.

So the glass is crystallizing as it is cooling (liquid to solid state transition, if you accept glass as a solid which seems to be proven nowadays), as the author states.

However, he says the glass is not crystallized when it is fully cooled as a solid.

Maybe bitumen is similar to that, since it is hot and pressurized underground, like glass is in the furnace.

As the bitumen cools to room temperature, it does undergo some crystallization, as stated in number 6 of your report.

Since it seems as if bitumen is forming "waxy crystals" as volatile compounds evaporate, and UV light is absorbed, (report does not state if the volatile compounds evaporate from oxidization, like exposure to the air, or only from exposure to the UV light. Also why is cooling like being frozen not included in number 6?).

If the bitumen only forms crystals when exposed to the sun, or UV light, but not as a result of time or aging, then maybe the bitumen molecules are forming an order where the UV light hits them.

It is interesting as that may explain the difference between physical hardening forming crystals and an order to the molecules, versus the exudative hardening (refer to number 6 in your report) not creating crystals because it is absorbing other compounds through a chemical reaction. It is not even really pure bitumen at that point.

Regardless of crystallization or un-crystallization, however, what if as the temperature of bitumen changes from hot to approaching room temperatures, another change occurs, such as the molecules are in disorder, and then they form an order. Then either cooling, which 6 in the report does not talk about, or UV rays cause the molecules to order themselves, which is visually evident in parts of the bitumen where the crystals are forming.

The molecules may not be in the same amount of order all over a sample of bitumen, like a tank, at the same time.

So, a question arises: Are the molecules of bitumen in order at all?

You would think this is directly related to elasticity. It seems as if the molecules would have to be in "order" for a thread of bitumen to return to it's original shape.


Last edited by GreenBeast; March 30th, 2016 at 09:51 AM.
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March 30th, 2016, 10:50 AM   #3
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An interesting experiment for professional scientists may be to freeze bitumen, while exposing it to UV light. Then unfreeze it to room temperature, and remeasure it's elasticity.

One more thought, is if you fold bitumen in to itself, like tanging metal, that may alter it's plasticity measurement, without adding or taking anything away from the pure bitumen. That is not true of solids, or liquids that do not have a plasticity rating probably. Plasma or gels may "tang" or change physical ratings by mixing or folding it into itself enough times, to a degree however, so there is an interesting link between a gel or plasma and bitumen.

Maybe the term gel is more appropriate to be added as a fifth state, and it would incorporate both bitumen and synthetic polymers that are probably essentially derivatives of oil.

I would think that gel would also have "not being water-based" in its definition.
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March 30th, 2016, 04:52 PM   #4
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One last thing I was thinking about, is applying the freezing process while subjecting a tank to high strength UV bulbs to other liquids or gels.

One idea might be to try it on salt water, and when you reheat it, and repeat the process a few times, maybe that might be the key to desalinization on a large scale. The last step would be to run the water through a standard filter.

How about applying the same process with the UV lights and freezing and thawing, to NiCad Batteries components in liquid form?

Or to make anything that can benefit from increasing that substances elasticity.

The possibilities are infinite.

Maybe add the elasticity by a process, and add a substance like super glue or metal shavings or wires at the end to increase some rigidity in the parts that need it, such as a topside and a bottom side of a circuit chip.

Maybe small circuit boards or chips can use more elasticity also.

Anyone have any more ideas how to use bitumen in chemistry?

I had an idea to use bitumens "waxy crystals" by removing them, and in a freezer room free of UV light, put them in a huge industrial blender, with another substance such as gold or diamond dust to make a new substance.

Maybe blending those waxy bitumen crystals with water, at high speed, and then super cooling the mix in a liquid nitrogen double pot, would make something that you could use as bricks that has high plasticity, yet would melt if strong UV bulbs were shined on the bricks.

I am thinking ship building applications, to slide the ship down the rails to launch it, on huge 6 foot bricks of waxy bitumen crystals. Or the rails themselves could be made of bitumen waxy crystals!!

Last edited by GreenBeast; March 30th, 2016 at 05:41 PM.
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March 30th, 2016, 06:37 PM   #5
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More ideas:
Bitumens waxy crystals could be mixed with white marble dust and titanium and zinc to create a material that might be able to patch ocean going ships in an emergency on the inside of the hull. Maybe spread it over a thin netting made of Kevlar, similar to how you patch a drywall.

Use bitumen waxy crystals to patch the undersea fiber optics lines, the SOSUS, or the trans-Atlantic cable.

Japan is surrounded by under sea volcanoes, that may be able to be rerouted farther away by a few miles by drilling new exit holes for the magma, and pouring the marble/zinc/bitumen mix on top of the current active volcano holes.

A huge project might be mapping the safe shipping lanes in the Caribbean using bitumen crystal/zinc/copper mix poured onto the ocean floor. In the event your GPS malfunctions, maybe another forward looking sonar type device can follow the trail to the closest port.
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