coal tar, product of the destructive distillation of bituminous coal. Coal tar can be distilled into many fractions to yield a number of useful organic products, including benzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene, anthracene, and phenanthrene. These substances, called the coal-tar crudes, form the starting point for the synthesis of numerous products—notably dyes, drugs, explosives, flavorings, perfumes, preservatives, synthetic resins, and paints and stains. The residual pitch left from the fractional distillation is used for paving, roofing, waterproofing, and insulation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.