The Romans’ Innovative Strategy to Strengthen Concrete

Posted by on Jun 19, 2018 in News | 0 comments

If you have ever been to Egypt or Italy, odds are you have seen structures that are thousands of years old. Considering how modern buildings crumble quickly without maintenance, it is remarkable that the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and other civilizations could build things so strong.

summer concrete ArkansasA recent report on the history of concrete gives us a clue as to how some of these structures have survived. The Romans developed a recipe for concrete that takes in minerals from seawater, so that seaside structures actually get stronger over time. Not only is this one of the most interesting uses of concrete, but it may hold the key to building sturdier structures today.


The Romans & Concrete

The Romans used concrete for a variety of purposes, including to build docks and other harbor structures. For more than two thousand years, these seaside buildings have withstood the wind, rain, and waves, yet remain standing to this day. This was puzzling to modern engineers and material scientists, given that the sea is typically a hazardous place for concrete structures. Modern seaside concrete crumbles in a matter of decades, yet Roman concrete has stayed strong in the same spots.

A recent project by geologist Marie Jackson of the University of Utah helps explain how the Romans created such powerful concrete. The secret lies in getting seaborne minerals to embed themselves in concrete walls and strengthen the structure. The Romans used a unique concrete recipe that caused these minerals to grow onto the concrete whenever water percolated inside of it. As a result, the structures were reinforced by a series of crystalized minerals that grew larger and stronger each year. Far from weakening the materials, seawater makes them stronger, allowing Roman structures to withstand the test of time.

Modern Meanings

This discovery is more than an interesting historical tidbit. It may hold the key to eliminating some of the most serious weaknesses of modern concrete! Jackson and other researchers are currently looking for ways to recreate the concrete that the Romans used. This is easier said than done, given that there are no surviving records of their unique recipe. But by studying the existing structures and working with geological engineers, Jackson believes she can create a similar and equally effective material.

It is hard to overestimate how significant this development could be. Humanity has been trying for hundreds of years to create sturdier, more durable concrete structures. Our inability to do so has prevented us from taking advantage of countless valuable resources, including tidal energy, which may hold the key to generating sustainable electricity. By creating structures that gain strength from the sea, we will be able to harness these resources like never before, aiding our civilization in a host of different ways.

Razorback Concrete Company looks to both the past and the future to find the best concrete for your needs. To learn more, contact us today by calling (870) 455-0700.

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