Bitumen vs Tar: Difference and Comparison

All day-to-day activities require a lot of time, energy, effort and, most important, materials. Construction of anything, be it roads, parking lots, runways, footpaths, garages etc., require various substances.

All these substances vary in features, characteristics, appearance, usage, etc. Different materials play different roles in various processes.

The materials required are unique in their ways. One material cannot be used in place of the other because each has an integral role.

Bitumen and Tar are the most commonly used and known substances among the various substances. Both these substances are used very in the day to day activities.

They have various purposes that they help.

Key Takeaways

  1. Bitumen is a thick, black, viscous substance derived from crude oil through a refining process, used in road construction and waterproofing.
  2. Tar is a dark, thick liquid from the destructive distillation of organic materials like coal, wood, or peat, used in road construction and roofing.
  3. Although both substances share similarities in appearance and applications, bitumen is a petroleum-based product, while tar is derived from organic materials.

Bitumen vs Tar

Bitumen or asphalt is a black, thick, and viscous derivative of petroleum used in the construction of roads with durability and weather resistance. Tar is a dark and thick material derived from distillation of coal, wood and petroleum with high carbon contents used for water proofing, building roads, and roofing. 

Bitumen vs Tar


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonBitumenTar
Derived fromBitumen is derived from sources associated with coal and oil.Tar is derived from sources associated with petroleum and wood.
Exists inBitumen exists in a solid form.Tar exists in viscous liquid form.
ColourThe colour of Bitumen is dark with a slight reddish.The colour of Tar is deep dark.
NatureBitumen occurs naturally.Tar needs to be distilled.
Carbon ContentThe carbon content of Bitumen is medium.The carbon content of Tar is very high.
Setting TimeThe setting time of Bitumen is very less.The setting time of Tar is more.
CostBitumen is more expensive as compared to Tar.Tar is cheaper as compared to Bitumen.
Molecular weight rangeThe molecular weight range for Bitumen is 400 to 5000.The molecular weight range for Tar is 150 to 3000.
Resistance to weatherBitumen is more resistant to weathering action.Tar is less resistant to weathering action.
Used forBitumen is used in construction as a damp-proof course, and roofing felt.Tar is used in industries and for preserving timber.
Temperature susceptibleBitumen is less susceptible to temperature.Tar is very susceptible to temperature.


What is Bitumen?

Bitumen is a very commonly used substance. It is a mixture of various organic substances.

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It consists of aromatic hydrocarbons. Bitumen occurs in the solid state. 

It is dark in colour and dense. Bitumen is referred to as asphalt in a few countries.

Bitumen is formed in an environment with lots of algae, plants and other organic matter. Due to this, Bitumen is also formed in similar conditions to oil and coal.

It is formed mainly in lakes and marshes. Areas of high vegetation, wherein it is possible to preserve the plant matter in mud deposits, are also where it is possible for the formation of Bitumen.

When buried, the plant matter is preserved in mud deposits and altered by heat and pressure. Organic shale is the main source of Bitumen.

Bitumen has a better weathering property. They are durable and resistant to weathering conditions.

Also, bitumen tends to stay at or near the surface. This leads to the building up of a rich and fat surface.

Because of this, there has to be regular traffic on roads built of bitumen so that the roads can be kept in good order. If this is not the case, it results in the cracking of roads and reduces the life of the roads.


What is Tar?

Tar is another very common substance that is used in various day-to-day activities. It is most commonly used as a sealing agent.

It helps seal roof tiles, building interiors and boats. It is also used as a flavour in candy and various foods.

Because of the pleasant smell of Tar, it is used in cosmetics too. So basically, Tar is a black liquid that can be formed differently.

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It is made of hydrocarbons mostly. But since Tar is formed in various ways, the chemical composition of Tar also varies.

Mostly Tar is made of some organic matter. Tars are highly susceptible to temperature changes.

With hot weather, the surface of Tar softens while it becomes brittle at low temperatures.  This makes it unsuitable for Tar to be used in places with many temperature fluctuations.

The specific gravity of Tar is also very high, and the viscosity is low. Tar has great penetrating power.

One of the main reasons that Tar is commonly used is because it is affordable compared to others.


Main Differences Between Bitumen and Tar

  1. Bitumen exists in solid form, whereas Tar is in liquid form.
  2. Bitumen comes from sources like coal and oil, whereas Tar comes from sources like wood and petroleum.
  3. Bitumen occurs naturally, whereas Tar needs to be distilled.
  4. The carbon content of Bitumen is medium, whereas the other hand, the carbon content of Tar is very high.
  5. Bitumen costs more than Tar, while Tar costs less than Bitumen.
  6. Bitumen has less temperature susceptibility, whereas Tar has more temperature susceptibility.
  7. Bitumen is more resistant to weathering action, whereas Tar is less resistant.
Difference Between Bitumen and Tar


Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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