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Everything old is new again: Researchers find ancient concrete technique superior to modern formula

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, June 4, 2013

To improve today’s concrete, do as the Romans did

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations | June 4, 2013

Chris Brandon of the ROMACONS project collects a sample of ancient Roman concrete drilled from a breakwater in Pozzuoli Bay, near Naples, Italy. The breakwater dates back to around 37 B.C. (D. Bartoli photo, courtesy of J.P. Oleson)

Chris Brandon of the ROMACONS project collects a sample of ancient Roman concrete drilled from a breakwater in Pozzuoli Bay, near Naples, Italy. The breakwater dates back to around 37 B.C. (D. Bartoli photo, courtesy of J.P. Oleson)

BERKELEY —In a quest to make concrete more durable and sustainable, an international team of geologists and engineers has found inspiration in the ancient Romans, whose massive concrete structures have withstood the elements for more than 2,000 years.Using the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), a research team from the University of California, Berkeley, examined the fine-scale structure of Roman concrete. It described for the first time how the extraordinarily stable compound – calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate (C-A-S-H) – binds the material used to build some of the most enduring structures in Western civilization.

The discovery could help improve the durability of modern concrete, which within 50 years often shows signs of degradation, particularly in ocean environments.

Sample of ancient Roman maritime concrete from Pozzuoli Bay near Naples, Italy. Its diameter is 9 centimeters, and it is composed of mortar formulated from lime, volcanic ash and chunks of volcanic tuff. (Carol Hagen photo)

Sample of ancient Roman maritime concrete from Pozzuoli Bay near Naples, Italy. Its diameter is 9 centimeters, and it is composed of mortar formulated from lime, volcanic ash and chunks of volcanic tuff. (Carol Hagen photo)

The manufacturing of Roman concrete also leaves a smaller carbon footprint than does its modern counterpart. The process for creating Portland cement, a key ingredient in modern concrete, requires Read the rest of this entry »

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