Modern Asphalt Uses
The modern usage of asphalt is wide-ranging. It’s mainly used in highways, airport runways, reservoir, and pool linings, pedestrian ways and footways, soundproofing, car parks, racetracks, tennis courts, cable coatings, pipe coatings, damp proofing, dams, paints, building waterproofing, tile underlying, and even newspaper ink production, among other uses.
At 102 million tons a year, asphalt is definitely one of the most produced construction materials globally. 85% of all of this is generally used as a binder for roads in the US. Though the vast majority of asphalt is used in constructing roads with asphalt concrete, other uses don’t really require a similar type of it.
As suitable, asphalt is either refined further or blended further to meet the requirements of construction. Each batch of asphalt is finally intended for specific use. Sometimes, it’s just mixed with gravel and crushed rock to form car parks. At other times, the properties are modified by adding recycled polymers such as rubber tires to add elasticity.
Asphalt’s waterproofing qualities, which the human civilization has prized since ancient times, is exactly what makes it so great for roofing. In fact, a significant 10% of total asphalt production in the US is meant for roofing applications.
85% as a binder for roads and other stuff like car parks or tennis courts, 10% as a roofing material – that leaves us with a 5% asphalt usage for a variety of sealing and insulating purposes, mostly in building materials, such as carpet tile backing, paints, and pipe coatings.
Note that making things with asphalt isn’t easy. It’s not just rolled on a flat surface to get a road-ready. Varying qualities, mixtures, and thicknesses of asphalt are used on top of a few layers of subbases (unbound and unbound granular). Asphalt of varying qualities is then layered on top of each other to form a segment of the road. Asphalt concrete (only 5% asphalt cement and 95% aggregates) can weigh around 112 pounds per square yard per inch in an average US pavement.