As the saying goes, if you want to make asphalt from scratch, you first have to create the whole universe! Ok that might be too far back. Let’s dial it in. Here is how to make the asphalt pavement we use to create roads, lots, and driveways and how asphalt naturally occurs.
How to Make Asphalt
First, remember, asphalt and asphalt are different things. We’ve laid out the definitions before, but remember there are differences between asphalt and asphalt concrete. Asphalt is the naturally occurring sticky, black, viscous liquid. Asphalt concrete is when we take that asphalt and use it as a binder for harder materials to create structure.
Ok, with that out of the way, just how does the Earth make asphalt?
How Mother Nature Makes Asphalt
Once upon a time there was ancient, microscopic algae and other living organisms floating about. They died and their remains got stuck into mud at the bottom of oceans or lakes. There, buried deep in conditions of intense heat (over 122° F) and pressure, those remains are synthesized into asphalt. It’s a lot like how diamonds are made
Ok, now for the asphalt we walk and drive on – a majority of the stuff used commercially is first pulled from that petroleum!
How Asphalt Companies Make Their Asphalt
The two key ingredients in asphalt pavement are the asphalt and the aggregate – you put them together and you’re in business! Asphalt is that viscous liquid form of petroleum that acts as a binding agent to bind the aggregate together to create a sturdy and flexible material. Aggregate refers to the crushed stone and gravel that makes the pavement hard. Aggregates will be in different shapes depending on which layer of asphalt pavement it is.
Additionally, some companies might add further ingredients to get certain effects. Hydrated lime is a common one that can be used to create a tighter bond between the aggregate and the asphalt. A lot of this depends on the climate that the asphalt is going to sit in. Warmer climates need harder asphalt to stand up to the heat for instance.
How the Mix is Made
Asphalt mixtures are made at, well, an asphalt plant. Each ingredient is measured for the specific scenario it needs to meet. Meanwhile this asphalt is thinned so that it can mix with the aggregate correctly. Dilution is done using a solvent, emulsifying in water, or adding heat – heat being the most common. Aggregate is cleaned, dried, and heated. When both the asphalt and the aggregate are ready to go they are each brought to the right temperature and then put into a drum to blend together.
The temperature is critical! Adjusting the temperature is based on how long it will take to transport the asphalt from the plant to the job site, as well as how thick it was to start with and how long it takes to compact once the mix has applied. With those figured out the asphalt mix is ready to go!
Now, you don’t need to know all that! When it comes to your perspective, the answer to “how to make asphalt?” is simple –- you call Sunrise Asphalt! We’ve been serving the Tucson area for decades and we’re proud of it! From driveways to parking lots and every stretch of blacktop between, Sunrise Asphalt paves the way.