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Mystery ingredient helped Roman architectural gems weather the weather, study shows

Mystery ingredient helped Roman architectural gems weather the weather, study shows

The Pantheon (“temple of all the gods”) is an ancient Roman temple, now a church, in Rome, Italy. (Image: by Roberta Dragan/Public Domain)

Comments by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News

Before technocrats hijacked the meaning of “technology” in modern times, it used to have a much broader meaning beyond simple electronic technology, and included engineering marvels that actually built things that lasted a long time.

Most of these ancient “technologies” have been lost to modern man.

Built to last: Mystery ingredient helped Roman architectural gems stand the test of time, study shows

for Svetlana Ekimenko

The majestic Roman structures, from the Pantheon to the iconic Colosseum, unfailingly capture our imaginations, whether we look at them “in the flesh” or from picture postcards. But how often do we stop to reflect on the engineering ingenuity behind its creation?

There is a mysterious “ingredient” that explains why Roman buildings have survived so long, a new study claims.

The intriguing durability of ancient Roman concrete, which has survived millennia, is what decided to investigate a team of scientists from the United States, Italy and Switzerland, who published their findings in the journal Science Advances.

Thousands of years have passed, but traces of the Roman Empire have survived to this day, inspiring the generations that followed. The ancient Romans built to last, whether it was temples, houses or aqueducts. Lasting reminders of the once flamboyant Roman Empire, impressive architectural wonders such as the famous amphitheater, the Coliseum, the well-preserved Pantheon and the architectural gem of the Maison Carrée temple in Nîmes.

“Self-healing” process.

The study team analyzed 2,000-year-old concrete samples taken from a city wall at the Privernum archaeological site in central Italy. The white bits discovered in the concrete, which were once thought to be fragments of poor quality raw material, actually gave the concrete the ability to heal cracks that formed with the onslaught of time.

Referring to earlier speculation that the pieces, called lime clasts, were merely evidence of carelessness on the part of Roman builders, study author Admir Masic, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Institute MIT said:

“For me, it was very hard to believe that the ancient Roman (engineers) wouldn’t do a good job because they really put a lot of careful effort into choosing and processing materials.”

The Roman texts studied by the researchers seemed to indicate that slaked lime was used as a binder in the manufacture of concrete. Concrete is formed by mixing cement, a binding agent usually made from limestone, water, fine aggregates such as sand, and coarse aggregates such as crushed rock. But the researchers concluded that the shards, or lime clasts, were caused by the use of quicklime (calcium oxide) when mixing the concrete, rather than or more than slaked lime.

“The advantages of hot mix are twofold. First, when aggregate concrete is heated to high temperatures, it allows chemicals that are not possible if only slaked lime is used, producing compounds associated with high temperatures that of a otherwise they would not form. Second, this increase in temperature significantly reduces curing and setting times, as all reactions are accelerated, allowing for much faster construction,” Masic stated in a press release.

The study conducted an experiment to prove the truth of its findings. They made two samples of concrete, one corresponding to ancient Roman formulas, and the other according to modern standards. Then they deliberately broke them and waited two weeks. At that time, as the water seeped through today’s type of concrete, the cracks in the concrete made following Roman recipes had “healed”.

The results confirmed that lime clasts could dissolve into cracks and then recrystallize after exposure to water in a ‘self-healing’ process that could now be used to produce more modern concrete lasting

Read the full article at Sputnik

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Posted on January 29, 2023

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