Give Now

A Moment of Science

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Concrete Recipe

Due to a special mix of ingredients, ancient Roman concrete is the world’s most durable and resilient concrete ever created.

One of the most famous and enduring examples of Roman concrete is The Coliseum.

The ancient Romans are known for many things: architecture, military prowess, building roads, and concrete.

That might seem like a surprise to some, but ancient Roman concrete is the world’s most durable and resilient concrete ever created. It’s even stronger than modern concrete.

A lot of it is still intact and more durable than ever—especially on harbors and piers.

You would think after thousands of years, seawater would destroy the concrete. Modern-day concrete doesn’t stand up so well against salt water.

The Secret Ingredient

Ancient Romans made concrete from a mixture of volcanic ash, rock, and lime. Now, that’s no secret. Scientists have known this part of the recipe for Roman concrete for a long time. What they didn’t know was why that simple mixture proved so long-lasting.

Scientists at the University of Utah discovered when seawater mixes with the concrete, it reacts with the volcanic ash to create an unusual crystal called tobermorite.

The researchers found that the crystals grow over time and that they reinforce the concrete and help hold it together. The crystals even help fix flaws and fractures.

If scientists ever found to produce those tobermorite crystals they could be used to make any number of useful things … including modern concrete used in or near seawater.

Sources And Further Reading:

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science