Tarmac (short for tarmacadam, or tar-penetration macadam) is a type of road surfacing material patented by Edgar Purnell Hooley in 1901. The term is also used, with varying degrees of correctness, for a variety of other materials, including tar-grouted macadam, bituminous surface treatments and even modern asphalt concrete.
Babylon, in 625 BCE, was the first city to have its streets paved with tar. More than 2,000 years later, John Loudon McAdam invented a road construction method called macadamisation. These roads were adequate for use by horses and carriages or coaches, but they were very dusty and subject to erosion with heavy rain. Later on, they did not hold up to higher speed motor vehicle use. Methods to stabilise macadam roads with tar date back to at least 1834, when John Henry Cassell, operating from Cassell's Patent Lava Stone Works in Millwall, patented "Pitch Macadam". This method involved spreading tar on the subgrade, then placing a typical macadam layer and then sealing the macadam with a mixture of tar and sand. Tar-grouted macadam was also in use well before 1900, and involved scarifying the surface of an existing macadam pavement, spreading tar and re-compacting. Although the use of tar in road construction was known in the 19th century, it was little used and was not introduced on a large scale until the motor car arrived on the scene in the early 20th century.
Hooley's 1901 patent for Tarmac involved mechanically mixing tar and aggregate prior to lay-down, and then compacting the mixture with a steamroller. The tar was modified by adding small amounts of Portland cement, resin, and pitch.
Later developments 
As petroleum production increased, the by-product asphalt became available in greater quantities and largely supplanted tar due to its reduced temperature sensitivity. The Macadam construction process also became quickly obsolete due to its high manual labour requirement; however, the somewhat similar tar and chip method, also known as bituminous surface treatment (BST) or "chip-seal", remains popular.
While the specific tarmac pavement is not common in some countries today, many people use the word to refer to generic paved areas at airports, especially the airport ramp or "apron", near the terminals despite the fact that many of these areas are in fact often made of concrete. The Wick Airport at Wick in Caithness, Scotland is one of the few airports that still has a real tarmac runway. Similarly in the UK the word tarmac is commonly used as an alternative term for asphalt concrete.
Tarmac is a registered trademark, although it is frequently used with a lower-case initial letter.
See also 
|Look up tarmac in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- History of road transport – covers the development of road-building techniques
- Asphalt concrete
- Pavement (material)
- Tarmac Limited
- Dr. Kasem Ajram (1992). The Miracle of Islam Science (2nd Edition ed.). Knowledge House Publishers. ISBN 0-911119-43-4.
- 1823 - First American Macadam Road
- From: 'Northern Millwall: Tooke Town', Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs (1994), pp. 423-433 Date accessed: 24 May 2009
- Hooley, E. Purnell, U.S. Patent 765,975, "Apparatus for the preparation of tar macadam", July 26, 1904
- "Tarmac, n". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. June 2011.