Ancient Roman concrete was used in building structures that are still standing and possibly even in use up to this day. Research also suggests that such constructions are also stronger than they were some 1,000 years ago.
Scientists from the University of Utah took a closer look at its componence and the chemical reactions taking place within such cement. They also determined the perhaps unexpectedly beneficial role of sea water in such compounds.
Ancient Roman Concrete Made Stronger by an Otherwise Erosive Element
The study shows that, in time immemorial, Roman concrete was created through a mix of volcanic ash, sea water, and lime. It also seemingly took advantage of the natural elements from tuff rocks, or naturally cemented volcanic ash deposits.
The mix was then strengthened with more volcanic ash, which helped create a very durable and sturdy, which passed the test of time, as can be easily shown.
The research team used advanced techniques, such as X-ray microdiffraction, to identify all the mineral grains produced by this ancient Roman concrete over the centuries.
“We can go into the tiny natural laboratories in the concrete, map the minerals that are present, the succession of the crystals that occur, and their crystallographic properties,” stated Marie Jackson, the study lead.
These tests helped show that sea water, a naturally erosive and corrosive element, actually helped strengthen this material. It did so as, by sloshing around, it helped dissolve the volcanic ash.
In doing so, it allowed phillipsite, a mineral, to grow into the Roman concrete, develop, and grow reinforcement structures inside of it.
This is seemingly the exact opposite of what happens to modern concrete as it is exposed to sea water. Now, the research team will be looking to create a modern version of the ancient Roman concrete.
As the old “recipe” has been lost, not all the elements used in its composition can be easily found either. Volcanic ingredients are quite hard to access, so the researchers point out the ancient Romans luck and resourcefulness in using them.
Research results are available in the journal American Mineralogist.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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