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Scientists Have Found the Ancient Secret of Indestructible Concrete [feedly]

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Scientists Have Found the Ancient Secret of Indestructible Concrete

For the most part, we humans are better at things than we were thousands of 
 years ago. But there are some things the ancients had down pat. Roman 
concrete, for instance, is just way better than anything we can whip up 
today. Finally, after some 2,000 years, modern-day scientists have figured 
it out. And it's a secret worth knowing.

Concrete, while often not exactly pretty, is a super important tool of 
city-building today. We've been using Portland cement (an ingredient in 
concrete) as a binder for nearly 200 years as a building block of modern 
architecture, but it just can't hold a candle to that old Roman stuff. 
There are concrete harbors in Italy that are still doing pretty damn well 
after thousands of years. Meanwhile, a modern-day Portland cement structure 
 is lucky to last 50 years when exposed to saltwater.

Now, after years of research in labs across the US and Europe, scientists 
have figured out that the most robust Roman concrete is a specific mixture 
of lime and volcanic rock, the details of which have been published in this 
 month's issues of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society and American 
 Mineralogist.

The researchers described it this way in a press release on the subject:

The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater 
structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this 
mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater 
instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated – 
incorporating water molecules into its structure – and reacted with the 
ash to cement the whole mixture together.

And it gets even better. Portland cement is environmentally messy to 
produce, accounting for some seven percent of the C02 modern industry 
produces. Roman concrete? Much, much greener. There's still a lot of work 
to be done in adapting traditional Roman construction techniques to today's 
 needs. But the recipe is as good as ever. We just have to get cookin'. 
[Bloomberg Businessweek]

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