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Roman Concrete Mineral Explains Japanese Plant Strength

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Many ancient Roman concrete structures persist to this day.

The amazing strength and durability of many ancient Roman structures, especially those submerged in water, has amazed researchers. Many believe that it is the chemical reaction between seawater with a mixture of volcanic ash and quicklime that creates a highly resistant mineral known as aluminous toberormorite.

Recently, a nuclear plant in Japan was decommissioned. Surprisingly, researchers found aluminous tobermorite in the walls of the nuclear powerplant, helping to explain the walls’ unexpected increased strength. 



The strength and longevity of Roman marine concrete is understood to benefit from a reaction of seawater with a mixture of volcanic ash and quicklime to create a rare crystal called tobermorite, which may resist fracturing. As seawater percolated within the tiny cracks in the Roman concrete, it reacted with phillipsite naturally found in the volcanic rock and created aluminous tobermorite crystals. The result is a candidate for "the most durable building material in human history". In contrast, modern concrete exposed to saltwater deteriorates within decade.



Roman concrete contains a rare mineral that has allowed it, even marine barriers, to survive for more than 2,000 years.

A new study suggests that the same mineral was also found in the walls of a nuclear powerplant in Japan. The researchers from Nagoya University said that the formation of this rare mineral, known as aluminous tobermorite, increases the walls' strength by up to three times their design strength.



Ippei Maruyama, an environmental engineer at Nagoya University, and his colleagues found aluminous tobermorite formed in the nuclear reactor's concrete walls when the temperatures were maintained for 16 years at 40 to 55 degrees Celsius.

"We found that cement hydrates and rock-forming minerals reacted in a way similar to what happens in Roman concrete, significantly increasing the strength of the nuclear plant walls," Maruyama said.



Aluminous Tobermorite is extremely difficult to incorporate in today's modern concrete because nobody exactly knows how to make it. The samples and texts left from ancient times do not paint the whole picture due to incomplete formula. Scientists have previously tried making it in a laboratory with very high temperatures that are above 70 degrees Celsius, but to no avail.

Compared with modern concrete, called Portland cement, Roman cement does not easily corrode over a short period under the salty seawater. Additionally, Portland cement uses pulverized calcium silicates that harden when water is introduced, which is not dissimilar to the Roman concrete. The only difference is that they use dissimilar ingredients since Roman concrete use volcanic ash.







Summary: This is another example of modern technology giving new insight into many aspects of life in ancient Rome.


guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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