In the 21st century, asphalt is an integral part of everyone’s life. The modern society is tough to imagine without this material. From roads to driveways, the majority of our everyday travels involves using asphalt.
According to the National Asphalt Pavement Association, in the United States, 94% of roads and highways are paved with asphalt.
You may be surprised to learn that asphalt is more than 2.5 thousand years old. The first records date to 625 BC when this material was used in Babylon. It was an integral part of sealing baths, building reservoirs, and constructing aqueducts.
Asphalt became known in Europe at the end of the 16th century. While traveling around the New World, European explorers found natural asphalt deposits. Initially, they were used for re-caulking the ships.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century that something close to the asphalt we know today appeared. In Scotland, roads were built with broken stones. They were put together to create a hard surface. However, such an approach made roads unreliable and hard to maintain. That’s when road builders decided to use hot tar to “glue” the broken stones together. The result was known as “tarmacadam” pavement.
In 1870, a Belgian scientist, Edmund J. DeSmedt, created the asphalt pavement, as we know it. First, it appeared in New Jersey. Then DeSmedt used asphalt to pave Pennsylvania Ave in Washington D.C. He did it by taking the natural asphalt deposits from the Trinidad Lake. Next year, The Cummer Company became the first business to create asphalt production facilities. At the same time, Nathan B. Abbott filed for an asphalt patent in New York.
In 1907, natural petroleum asphalt became more popular than natural asphalt. Since the need for smooth and durable roads was growing with the rise of the automobile industry, many companies tried hard to come up with asphalt-related innovations.
WWII gave a big push to the asphalt-making technologies since military aircrafts required highly durable surfaces to land on.
In the 1970s, due to the national energy crisis, the conservation of natural resources was on the agenda. That’s when manufacturers started recycling asphalt. Today, in some states, more than 50% of asphalt is recycled.
Asphalt isn’t just a durable and easily recyclable material, it’s more environmentally friendly than other common pavements. According to experts from ABC Paving & Sealcoating, with the right approach to paving and maintenance, asphalt roads and driveways can take substantial wear and tear for many years. Asphalt is being perfected continuously, which keeps it on the top list of pavement materials in the United States.