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Archaeology & History

How has Roman concrete lasted 2,000 years ?

By T.K. Randall
July 4, 2017 · Comment icon 6 comments

Roman concrete has stood the test of time. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Carole Raddato
The remarkable longevity of Roman sea piers has proven something of a mystery to modern engineers.
Whatever the Romans put in to their concrete, it has certainly stood the test of time - as evidenced by the continued survival of some 2,000-year-old structures in contrast to many modern efforts which have disintegrated within mere decades by the continuous battering of the ocean waves.

There are even historic accounts of the strength of Roman concrete such as that of Pliny the Elder, who in 79AD described how the concrete structures of the time "became a single stone mass, impregnable to the waves, and every day stronger."

Now according to a new study by scientists in the US, the answer to this mystery lies in the way seawater mixes with the volcanic ash and lime within the concrete to form interlocking minerals.

These then provide a virtually impregnable cohesion to the structure that can last for millennia.
"We're looking at a system that's contrary to everything one would want in cement-based concrete," said study leader Prof Marie Jackson from the University of Utah.

"We're looking at a system that thrives in open chemical exchange with seawater."

It is hoped that the findings could one day help modern engineers develop new, more durable types of concrete that also take advantage of this same strengthening mechanism.

Locating a replacement for the volcanic ash used by the Romans however could prove a challenge.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (6)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by u2canbfmj 6 years ago
Today, filling in pot holes is positive for GDP. Creating roads and etc that last 2000 years? No shovel ready Jobs LOL
Comment icon #2 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
True. but it sounds like the composition of the concreate is not completely know. You can say they just don't make concrete the way they used to.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Krater 6 years ago
These findings do not explain the Pantheon, whose unreinforced concrete dome has stood for more than 2000 years and is still the largest in the world. Of course, it doesn't pay to build something that lasts, anymore. There's more money in shoddy workmanship that needs constant upkeep or rebuilding.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Myles 6 years ago
I don't think the motivation is the opportunity to upkeep or to rebuild.†† I think it is just a $$ savings.†††† Also the need or want to build something that will last a thousand years is not there.† † OK, I'll be the first to bring aliens into this. † We all know that humans could not possibly have built something that lasts this long. †† - † Just joking.†
Comment icon #5 Posted by highdesert50 6 years ago
Interesting that the Romans were using basic scientific methods of observation, forming a hypothesis, and testing the hypothesis to arrive at a conclusion. Unfortunate that we do not have more info on the processes with which they experimented before they arrived at the desired recipe.
Comment icon #6 Posted by aztek 6 years ago
ash from volcano that was used in†roman concrete has properties that actually make concrete stronger over time, also no metal rebars in their concrete †helped as well., †rebars rust, expand, and crack modern concrete.† there is nothing secret about roman concrete. †

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