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Ancient Roman Concrete Is About To Revolutionize Modern Architecture

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the when-in-rome dept.

Technology 322

schwit1 sends this news from Businesweek: "After 2,000 years, a long-lost secret behind the creation of one of the world's most durable man-made creations ever — Roman concrete — has finally been discovered by an international team of scientists, and it may have a significant impact on how we build cities of the future. Researchers have analyzed 11 harbors in the Mediterranean basin where, in many cases, 2,000-year-old (and sometimes older) headwaters constructed out of Roman concrete stand perfectly intact despite constant pounding by the sea. The most common blend of modern concrete, known as Portland cement, a formulation in use for nearly 200 years, can't come close to matching that track record. In seawater, it has a service life of less than 50 years. After that, it begins to erode. The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique. As the researchers explain in a press release outlining their findings, 'The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated — incorporating water molecules into its structure — and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.'"

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322 comments

Ancient Roman First Post is about to revolutionize (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015035)

slashdot.

Postus Firstus!

Ancient Romans (4, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 10 months ago | (#44015099)

Digitus impudicus [wikipedia.org] ad hodierna effercio. MM anni? Mirum dictu!

Re:Ancient Romans (0)

worf_mo (193770) | about 10 months ago | (#44015801)

In high school - a couple decades ago - our teacher asked each student to think of a sentence, translate it into Latin and speak it out loud in front of the class. The guy next to me came up with: "Penis bonus pax in domus". He passed the test.

Re:Ancient Roman First Post is about to revolution (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015321)

Postvs Firstvs

Re:Ancient Roman First Post is about to revolution (0)

Phizzle (1109923) | about 10 months ago | (#44015417)

in the spirit of Slashdot shouldn't it be FROSTVS PISTVS?

Re:Ancient Roman First Post is about to revolution (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 10 months ago | (#44015561)

Si tacuisses philosophus mansisses.

Re:Ancient Roman First Post is about to revolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015675)

Si tacuisses philosophus mansisses.

Spasibo za neumestnuju Latin i afishirovannije erzatsa intellecta, voistinnu skazano, "Obrazovanie ne portit pridurka".

Re:Ancient Roman First Post is about to revolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015737)

Admit it. You all learned Latin on the off chance that you would find yourself in the past left to survive by your own wits.

Re:Ancient Roman First Post is about to revolution (3, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 10 months ago | (#44015817)

Admit it. You all learned Latin on the off chance that you would find yourself in the past left to survive by your own wits.

Or because it was compulsory in those days, at least at my school. And since it was taught the "old-fashioned" way (using sadistic brutality, such that the Centurion's Latin lesson in Life Of Brian was eerily familiar), I actually learned the cursed lingo.

All interesting or useful topics were forbidden. Time travel to escape your teachers and/or homework deadlines would have been one of these.

Prior art (5, Interesting)

advantis (622471) | about 10 months ago | (#44015057)

Can this discovery of old stuff be patented today, or is the fact that the romans did it so long ago constitute prior art? Or will the argument go like "We don't have a treaty with the Roman Empire regarding Intelectual Property Rights, an nobody did this in our country yet, so sure, go ahead an patent it"...?

Re:Prior art (0)

PPH (736903) | about 10 months ago | (#44015075)

Make out your royalty checks to "The Pope, Vatican City".

Re:Prior art (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015211)

I'll be the fact checker and state that Vatican City came at the end of the Roman empire. Christianity was part of the cause of the downfall. At the very least it is a good place to say that the empire started to fall.

Re:Prior art (4, Informative)

Artifakt (700173) | about 10 months ago | (#44015713)

If you really want to check facts, the Vatican was first recognized as a separate nation in 1929 a.d. by the Lateran Treaty, signed by representitives of the then current pope on one hand and Benito Mussolini on the other. 1929 is just a tad later than the end of the Roman empire.* Maybe you are thinking of 'the' Holy See,** or some of the Papal Estates that went back to at least Medieval times.

* Watch someone post "citation needed".

**Technically, any Bishop's diocese is a See, and presumably at least some Bishops in some eras have been not particularly unholy, so what the Pope, as Bishop of Rome, has, is merely a holy see, even though a lot of lay people seem to use the term like he has a lock on it.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015081)

I was also thinking the same thing. If roman concrete is robust as the blurb claims, it seems to me it has too much monetary value for the funders of research team to release into the public domain. (I'm going to read the article now)

Re:Prior art (5, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | about 10 months ago | (#44015109)

Can this discovery of old stuff be patented today, or is the fact that the romans did it so long ago constitute prior art? Or will the argument go like "We don't have a treaty with the Roman Empire regarding Intelectual Property Rights, an nobody did this in our country yet, so sure, go ahead an patent it"...?

People are amazed by this new discovery and yet legality was the first thought here.

I know you were somewhat joking here, but this is exactly why we can't have nice things. Too many damn laws stand in the way of true innovation anymore. It will be our demise.

Re:Prior art (5, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | about 10 months ago | (#44015165)

> I know you were somewhat joking here, but this is exactly why we can't have nice things.
> Too many damn laws stand in the way of true innovation anymore. It will be our demise.

And I suspect that some (specifically, the owners of that "Intellectual Property") peoples' real attitude is that they will be on top of you and me as we all sink, and the sinking will stop while they're still above water. Whether or not you and I are above water will not be relevant, as long there are enough left to do the necessary work for a pittance.

Re:Prior art (1)

Sarius64 (880298) | about 10 months ago | (#44016025)

Actually, I was waiting on Al Gore to comment on whether the science was settled. Maybe if we had a consensus we could believe this scientific finding. What oil company did the Romans work for?

Re:Prior art (3, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#44015175)

It won't be worth patenting, if they even found anything new recipe-wise. Most concrete is steel-reinforced, and most of the failure you see is the rebar corroding. It's not hard to imagine how a lime-volcanic ash mixture would make this unsuitable for steel-reinforced concrete.

Re:Prior art (2)

Dekker3D (989692) | about 10 months ago | (#44015279)

Even if so, it could be worth building things without rebar, imitating this recipe, if you want something that'll stand for thousands of years instead of 50. Sure, it may not have the same structural strengths to begin with, but it'll keep its strength much longer.

Good for art and such, or any building meant to be impressive or to be used for a long time.

Re:Prior art (1)

stymy (1223496) | about 10 months ago | (#44015349)

I'm no engineer, but why couldn't this recipe be used with rebar? Corrosion from the water that needs to be absorbed, or what?

Re:Prior art (5, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#44015503)

The problem is that it's the rebar itself that often destroys the structure. Concrete is porous, and so water finds it's way into the structure and gradually corrodes the rebar. The problem is that rust (iron+oxygen) is considerably larger than the original iron, and since concrete can't stretch to accommadate the expansion it eventually gets torn apart.

Re:Prior art (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015873)

This seems like such a stupid problem when they could use rebar made of stainless steel or spray a protective coating on it.

Re:Prior art (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#44016053)

Stainless steel isn't rust proof - it just "stains less" (and is a *lot* more expensive, something like 10-20x IRC). And once rust does get established it still spreads pretty quickly. And sure a protective coating helps but still isn't fool proof. The biggest issue though is simply that in most situations modern concrete will have degraded to the point that it really needs to be replaced anyway before the rebar expands enough to crack it, so there just isn't really any point in adding expensive protections.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44016091)

I was wondering and found a reference to aluminum-bronze rebar formulated to meet steel rebar strength
http://pubsindex.trb.org/view.aspx?id=481483

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015513)

Not to mention there's things like paint and galvanic coatings that can be applied to rebar. No good reason why it couldn't.

The harder part may be finding enough suitable sources of volcanic ash that can be mined, and not all ash has the same mineral ratios and such. That would still limit its use unless there's some way to make a decent enough man-made equivalent that's better than the Portland formula.

Re:Prior art (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | about 10 months ago | (#44015907)

Seems fairly simple to me. Find the average mineral ratio of this ash, pour together readily-available types of material to get the same mineral ratio, see if that works. If it does, yay. If it doesn't, grind it up. If that doesn't work, find out of there's small structures in the ash that are important. If the latter, we could still use the recipe for special projects by using real volcanic ash.

Re:Prior art (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#44015813)

I hear ya, but if I'm an artist that is going to build a 5000-year building, I'll go with big blocks of attractive stone. This stuff would likely be super-pricey.

Re:Prior art (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | about 10 months ago | (#44015883)

The romans did it on a pretty big scale, as far as I understand. So industrializing it with current technology would probably be fairly easy. There's no real reason it should be pricey after it catches on, if it does so at all.

Re:Prior art (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#44016001)

If the ingredients are more expensive, the cement will be more expensive. For instance, the Roman variety calls for more aluminum and less sand. They also mention unspecified "minerals" as being present in Roman cement that are not normally present in Portland cement.

Re:Prior art (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 10 months ago | (#44016009)

The real issue is that we simply don't want or need anything to last for a thousand years anymore. It's just not effective: buildings, roads, and other structures are usually replaced well before that, simply because of shifting demographics and economy.

Re:Prior art (4, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#44015541)

Steel reinforcement would negate the longevity of Roman concrete anyway. The rebar will eventually rust out and crack the concrete as it expands. That's fine if your concrete won't last nearly as long as the rebar anyway, but with Roman concrete the rebar would completely rust away while the concrete itself was still just fine.

There are other benefits though, mainly the reduced carbon footprint of production, and the near-total immunity to spalling which all modern concretes suffer from.

Re:Prior art (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 10 months ago | (#44015629)

Perhaps a really clever person could come up with a way of coating the rebar in a waterproof or non-reactive coating. Maybe it's not cost effective, but it seems like a simple problem to solve.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015689)

They already do this for rebar used in highways.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015731)

Or replacing it with something else that serves the same purpose. I recently read that Roman Concrete is pretty tough.

Re:Prior art (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015753)

The biggest problem in todays concrete production is cost effectiveness. We can produce hundreds of concretes with widely varying properties. We can mix concretes with negligible carbon footprint or extreme durability or very steep viscoelasticity, but pumping tons of these into a foundation would cost more than simply using pure steel for all of it.

Source: I've just passed a polymer physics course, and the professors primary research area is concretes.

captcha: unfold

Re:Prior art (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 10 months ago | (#44015625)

Question is - why is it necessary for concrete to be reinforced? Obviously, the Romans didn't have steel or iron rebar. They formed and poured their structures without any rebar, and they've lasted a couple thousand years. It seems more than obvious that our architects and engineers can learn a few things from the Romans.

Supposing that all their study concludes that reinforced concrete is essential in some cases, does that mean Roman concrete is never to be preferred? Slabs of parking lot, sidewalk, and highway pavement would likely be better for using Roman, rather than Portland cement. If the concrete tolerates the weather better, and resists chipping and cracking better, that would mean all that reinforcement is wasted.

I've seen nothing to indicate that Roman concrete tolerates the cold better than Portland. Maybe parts of the world with annual freezing cycles wouldn't benefit. It's equally likely that we'll find that Roman concrete tolerates freezing conditions better than Portland.

Further - we could learn that hybrid structures are preferable. Build a core out of reinforced Portland, then bond a facade of Roman concrete to exterior faces to resist the elements.

Why does rebar corrode, anyway? Most Portland concrete is porous, of course. For this reason, the Hoover Dam has interior channels built into it to siphon the water away. The water just continously percolates through the concrete, and it has to be disposed of some way. Along with the water, you get salts, acids, or whatever from the environment. Apparently, the Roman concrete doesn't suffer from this infiltration.

By all means - we need to study the old recipes, and/or any new recipes, and see how they can be used to our benefit.

Prestressed concrete performs better under tension (5, Informative)

stoploss (2842505) | about 10 months ago | (#44015867)

Question is - why is it necessary for concrete to be reinforced? Obviously, the Romans didn't have steel or iron rebar. They formed and poured their structures without any rebar, and they've lasted a couple thousand years. It seems more than obvious that our architects and engineers can learn a few things from the Romans.

IANASE (structural engineer), but from my understanding one key difference that reinforced concrete confers is that it allows the concrete to be prestressed [hhttps] to perform better under tension. Concrete (Roman or modern) is just fine under compression, so it can support a prodigious amount of weight loading down on it. However, once you try to span an area then the concrete in the middle of the span is normally under tension. As you can imagine, this often leads to cracking and outright failure. Furthermore, it's why the Romans had such a predilection to using arches and domes, which keep the concrete predominantly under compression rather than tension.

Think about it this way: our highway bridges couldn't be built the way they are if we were using unreinforced Roman concrete; however, if the concrete is prestressed then the tensile forces are balanced by the compressive forces. This also allows us to do many other interesting things with architecture that weren't feasible before.

I have wondered about whether something like carbon fiber could be used in the future to produce prestressed concrete that wasn't as prone to corrosion as the steel rebar-based approach. Something like that might be the best of both worlds. Okay, so I just Googled and it looks like at least one carbon-fiber approach is already patented [google.com] .

Just as an aside, the Romans were quite ingenious when it came to implementing their architectural application of concrete. I read that when Hadrian ordered the construction of the current version of the Pantheon [wikipedia.org] , the Roman engineers were faced with difficulty designing a dome that would not collapse under its own weight (again, tensile forces and concrete are not friends). The Romans overcame this by reducing the density of the concrete in the dome by using pumice in the aggregate and reducing the thickness of the concrete as the dome progressed. The dome of the Pantheon remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world—not because we can't replicate the techniques, but because reinforced concrete performs so much better under tension.

Re:Prior art (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#44015917)

I'm not pooh-poohing their efforts, I'm just skeptical that lime-ash concrete as used by the Romans will lead to breakthroughs. I think their work is very interesting, and any kind of discovery like this lets us better-understand our world. It's just that if you make concrete much more expensive, other materials start to make more sense. For instance, if I'm making a big breakwater, eventually a giant hunk of stone will be more economical than concrete. The scientists involved seem to be chasing the carbon angle, since the Roman lime was baked at a lower temperature and yet they still made decent concrete. If we could learn to do that, that would indeed be nice...

I'm pretty sure the Roman concrete is still very porous - especially given the way they say it cures by water creeping in and activating the reaction. Here is the press release [lbl.gov] , which has much better detail than TFA.

First to file (4, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 10 months ago | (#44015253)

didn't most countries move to a first to file system? I'm pretty sure Julius didn't get to the Patent office on time for this one.

Re:First to file (0)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#44015409)

Yes, but you still can't patent something that's widespread public knowledge. First-to-file is just a way of resolving disputes over priority when two people claim the right to patent an invention. The alternative system is first-to-invent, which has more problems because it requires digging into each party's private records of when they invented the thing, and trusting that those records aren't falsified.

Re:First to file (1)

Goaway (82658) | about 10 months ago | (#44015637)

Yes, but you still can't patent something that's widespread public knowledge.

Which, of course, this isn't. It's been long since forgotten.

Re:Prior art (2, Interesting)

acroyear (5882) | about 10 months ago | (#44015401)

What can be patented isn't the invention, but the process for making it en masse for modern needs. The quantity involved will far exceed the Roman usage.

The complications is that most volcanic rock today is protected by national or regional parks (partly to protect people from being too close for a long time). Etna, Vesuvius, Hawaii, Iceland - many of those aren't going to just let corporations come in with the same giant trucks they use for coal mines today and rip away 3/4s of the mountainside or lava flows to get the stuff.

Re:Prior art (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 10 months ago | (#44015807)

This article doesn't talk about it, but the volcanic ash (AOL Keyword: pozzolan ash) can be found in deposits all over the world.

It's already mined commercially and it will be trivial to increase that mining capacity in locations that are far away from anywhere environmentally sensitive.

Re:Prior art (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#44015467)

Honestly, I would have absolutely NO problem with granting someone a patent if they were able to recreate Roman concrete. What's twenty years compared to the value of concrete that can survive 2000 years of coast-water abuse? This is in fact *exactly* the sort of thing patents were designed for - to promote the development of technologies for the good of mankind. What difference does it really make whether the technology is completely new or something that had been lost to the ages?

Re:Prior art (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 10 months ago | (#44015647)

So if I reverse engineer a product that is not patented and relies on trade secrets to function I can get a patent as well? That's effectively what was done here, with the addition of the secret being lost.

Re:Prior art (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#44015837)

Sure, why not? If they have neither published or patented the invention then it doesn't exist as far as the rest of the world is concerned. The original creator decided they preffered the indefinite advantage of trade secret versus the short-term monopoly of patents in exchange for sharing the technology. So basically you have created something that's new to the rest of the world, and shared it with everyone in exchange for a limited monopoly. In fact I'm willing to bet you could even sue the original inventor for infringement, especially now that we've switched to a first-to-file system.

Of course you couldn't do this for some widget being sold at the store - shipping the widget is a form of publishing, and anyone can trivially "reverse-engineer" it. But for something like the method of creating Roman concrete (not just the ingredients, we've known those for a while), or a Google-class search algorithm (actual patentability aside), it's a completely different question.

Re:Prior art (3, Informative)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 10 months ago | (#44015587)

AFAIK, yes, it can be patented. And that's perfectly OK. Roman concrete wasn't a useful art, it was a lost art. At least under the official theory of American patent law, patents exist to promote advances in useful arts, not to merely grant a monopoly over some abstract artistic right. "Prior Art" isn't just something that EXISTED... it's something that existed, with documentation that would have allowed somebody ELSE to re-create it. Without that documentation, Roman Concrete was little more than a mere idea... maybe a half-step better since it was more like a "proof of concept", but the fact that substantial effort was required to re-discover and document it IMHO does make it patent-worthy.

Now, if Cemex (or some other company that makes concrete) gets sued for infringement 14 years from now, and shows up in court with some ancient, long-lost and recently-rediscovered Greco-Roman document with the formula, they'd have a solid case for overturning a modern patent on it.

Before somebody brings up "first to file", I should point out that if I invent and document something, but someone else beats me to the patent office, I might not be able to get the patent transferred to ME, but I can certainly show up late and spoil the party for THEM. In a way, "First to File" opens the door to trolling trolls... if you invent something, but don't necessarily think it's worth patenting (or have the resources to secure that patent), you can abundantly document it (possibly via digital notarization), then just sit on your notes. If somebody ELSE gets a patent, you can demand that they give you a cut of the royalties they collect, and threaten to go public with your own prior art and spoil their party (after they've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars securing the patent) if they don't.

Such a bullshit title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015091)

The sensationalized title and article end with this:

Adopting the materials (more volcanic ash) and production techniques of ancient Roman could revolutionize today’s building industry with a sturdier, less CO2-intensive concrete. “The question remains, can we translate the priciniples from ancient Rome to the production of modern concrete? I think that is what is so exciting about this new area of research,” Jackson says.

Basically: Never mind. We probably can't use this millennia old "tech" anyway.

Re:Such a bullshit title (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about 10 months ago | (#44015125)

So there's no such thing as lime and tuff? Of course we can use this method today, if they really have the formula now. I think Portland cement has been used for the last 200 years because it is cheap. This will not be as cheap, but in applications where corrosion is a particular issue, e.g. dams and in particular in salt and brackish water, it might likely be used.

Highways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015105)

They should test out this Pozzolan cement stuff on some highways, see if it survives the annual frost heave cycle. Although the unions wouldn't approve - they seem to like tearing up each heavily used roadway on an annual basis.

Re:Highways (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 10 months ago | (#44015195)

Ha. That's not dictated by unions. It's dictated by contractors that don't have any incentive to finish the job in a reasonable amount of time. When incentives are built into the contract, they finish on time.

Re:Highways (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 10 months ago | (#44015793)

I doubt whether it would help. Since Roman concrete can't be steel-reinforced, it would just crumble if ice heaved it upwards because it wouldn't have steel inside to hold it together. It wouldn't help with cracks, because even concrete roads are still surfaced with a few inches of asphalt (at least, in Florida... maybe things are different "up north"). AFAIK, the endless annual resurfacing would still be necessary, because 99% of the potholes and cracks are in the top layer of asphalt, not the structural concrete roadbed below.

Where the Roman concrete might be MORE useful is environments like causeways, by providing a hard shell around the structural foundation that protects it from erosion. Where it might become a bit dangerous is if it ends up protecting the structural reinforced concrete from VISIBLE damage, but doesn't prevent the steel from rusting away on the inside until its tensile strength gets reduced to the point of being dangerous even though it "looks fine" on the outside.(*)

(*)For those who don't know, reinforced steel consists of steel bars + concrete because concrete has tremendous compressive strength, but terrible tensile strength. Apply force in any direction besides straight down, and concrete just breaks away or crumbles. In contrast, steel has a lot of tensile strength (it tends to stretch and bend rather than snap), but terrible compressive strength. As a matter of good luck, steel & concrete have mostly identical expansion rates when heated & cooled, and form a very strong chemical bond to each other (get concrete splattered on your car, and once it dissolves the paint and makes contact with the steel body it's NEVER coming off). The combination allows concrete to provide the compressive strength, and the steel to provide the tensile strength. Without steel, an elevated freeway would have to be built from arched vaults. With steel, you can support it with flat beams. Of course, if you approximate a "classical" form like an arch, you'll be working WITH the concrete and adding strength, but steel is what allows us to build things like a 40 foot road deck cantilevered from a single support column, or support a skyscraper like Citigroup's midtown headquarters from support columns that are located in the middle of each wall instead of at the corners.

De Architectura (5, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 10 months ago | (#44015123)

I find it odd that there are claims this is new information. Didn't Vitruvius describe it in his De Architectura, written about 15 BC?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_architectura [wikipedia.org]

Perhaps the story is confusing the known composition with some mechanism that the new study discovered.

Re:De Architectura (5, Interesting)

Stickmaker (711280) | about 10 months ago | (#44015181)

When I was working on my BSCE in the mid-Seventies I had a course on concrete additives. Pozzolanic ash was definitely mentioned. I have also seen this mentioned many other places since then, including the fact that some of the Roman concrete mixes would cure under water. So, no, this isn't some revolutionary new discovery. Those claiming so are either ignorant of previous art - and that's *recent* previous art - or are deliberately trying to build up their own claims.

Re:De Architectura (1)

Bahamut_Omega (811064) | about 10 months ago | (#44015275)

True enough. Sure it is prior art, if one gives a few millennia to think about it. In this case, the old method is superior to the new.

Re:De Architectura (5, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#44015527)

So, no, this isn't some revolutionary new discovery. Those claiming so are either ignorant of previous art - and that's *recent* previous art - or are deliberately trying to build up their own claims.

Or, maybe, just maybe, the Slashdot summary is merely quoting the first part of the press release that explains previously known information, but the Slashdot summary doesn't contain the actual details of the new findings, which describe some previously unknown aspects of the chemistry involved... some of which appear to be essential to the structural properties observed.

But, oops... for that you'd have to RTFA.

Re:De Architectura (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 10 months ago | (#44015269)

Natural builders also discuss it all the time. It's also discussed in old ceramic texts, ~1800s. Probably the only actual new knowledge here is the role aluminum plays in the structure.

Re:De Architectura (3, Informative)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#44015435)

I find it odd that there are claims this is new information. Didn't Vitruvius describe it in his De Architectura, written about 15 BC?

Umm, care to RTFA? From the press release:

Descriptions of volcanic ash have survived from ancient times. First Vitruvius, an engineer for the Emperor Augustus, and later Pliny the Elder recorded that the best maritime concrete was made with ash from volcanic regions of the Gulf of Naples ... especially from sites near todayâ(TM)s seaside town of Pozzuoli.

I'm not sure exactly all that is new here, but in the press release you can read about the role of aluminum, the effect of lower temperatures in the manufacturing process, the production of certain end products in curing that are not found in modern concrete (due to the things already mentioned), etc.

Perhaps the story is confusing the known composition with some mechanism that the new study discovered.

Or perhaps you just didn't read the link to find out that's exactly what the press release is about.

Roman concrete produces a significantly different compound [from modern concrete], with added aluminum and less silicon. The resulting calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate (C-A-S-H) is an exceptionally stable binder.... Another striking contribution of the Monteiro team concerns the hydration products in concrete. In theory, C-S-H in concrete made with Portland cement resembles a combination of naturally occurring layered minerals, called tobermorite and jennite. Unfortunately these ideal crystalline structures are nowhere to be found in conventional modern concrete. Tobermorite does occur in the mortar of ancient seawater concrete, however.

Etc.

(The article also, by the way, seems to be about streamlining manufacturing to produce a better product with less energy and heat, thereby reducing carbon emissions, etc.)

Re:De Architectura (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#44015437)

As is common, the university press release (and the news story that cribs from it) is considerably over the top compared to the actual publications (and the actual findings). The research is interesting, but not some kind of groundbreaking discovery of Roman marine concrete, which is of course already well known. What it's actually doing is detailed investigation into the chemical properties of the concrete and how it's formed, in order to better understand the particular material-science aspects of this form of concrete.

Here's the abstract:

The material characteristics and elastic properties of aluminum-substituted 11 Å tobermorite in the relict lime clasts of 2000-year-old Roman seawater harbor concrete are described with TG-DSC and 29Si MAS NMR studies, along with nanoscale tomography, X-ray microdiffraction, and high-pressure X-ray diffraction synchrotron radiation applications. The crystals have aluminum substitution for silicon in tetrahedral bridging and branching sites and 11.49(3) Å interlayer (002) spacing. With prolonged heating to 350C, the crystals exhibit normal behavior. The experimentally measured isothermal bulk modulus at zero pressure, K0, 55 ±5 GPa, is less than ab initio and molecular dynamics models for ideal tobermorite with a double-silicate chain structure. Even so, K0, is substantially higher than calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate binder (C–A–S–H) in slag concrete. Based on nanoscale tomographic study, the crystal clusters form a well connected solid, despite having about 52% porosity. In the pumiceous cementitious matrix, Al-tobermorite with 11.27 Å interlayer spacing is locally associated with phillipsite, similar to geologic occurrences in basaltic tephra. The ancient concretes provide a sustainable prototype for producing Al-tobermorite in high-performance concretes with natural volcanic pozzolans.

Re:De Architectura (2)

Toad-san (64810) | about 10 months ago | (#44015783)

What a bunch of crap! Yes, you're absolutely correct: this is all (literally) ancient history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_concrete [wikipedia.org]

"Vitruvius, writing around 25 BC in his Ten Books on Architecture, distinguished types of aggregate appropriate for the preparation of lime mortars. For structural mortars, he recommended pozzolana, which were volcanic sands from the sandlike beds of Pozzuoli brownish-yellow-gray in color near Naples and reddish-brown at Rome. Vitruvius specifies a ratio of 1 part lime to 3 parts pozzolana for cements used in buildings and a 1:2 ratio of lime to pulvis Puteolanus for underwater work, essentially the same ratio mixed today for concrete used at sea.[2]"

Also, back in 1993:

http://www.romanconcrete.com/docs/spillway/spillway.htm [romanconcrete.com]

WWARS (What Would Ayn Rand Say) (4, Funny)

jabberw0k (62554) | about 10 months ago | (#44015127)

I plan to build my next structure with Roman Concrete and Rearden Steel...

Re:WWARS (What Would Ayn Rand Say) (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015145)

Ayn Rand is dead.

Dead people don't say anything.

And in the case of Ayn Rand who was a nutcase
who wrote stuff which is embraced by fucktards with
minds which have not progressed beyond the juvenile
state, that is a good thing.

Re:WWARS (What Would Ayn Rand Say) (3, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 10 months ago | (#44015215)

WWARS (What Would Ayn Rand Say)

"Money should be restricted to your social betters."

Also, she'd probably write a masturbation fantasy for rich people, about how much their social inferiors would suffer after a Rapture of the Rich.

Re:WWARS (What Would Ayn Rand Say) (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015535)

There's nothing you have said that appears anywhere in the megatons of her writings. Is this the state of anti-Rand memes that filter about in your mental tribal community?

Bloody Romans! (5, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 10 months ago | (#44015161)

All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Re:Bloody Romans! (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 10 months ago | (#44015233)

On the down side, they had to change their concrete marketing slogan from "It keeps the Germans out" to "It keeps the seawater out".

Re:Bloody Romans! (2)

loufoque (1400831) | about 10 months ago | (#44015245)

They taught grammar to barbarians; unfortunately English discarded most of it.

Re:Bloody Romans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015589)

i think you misspelled "fortunately". we communicate just as much
with a small fraction of the rules in english.

Re:Bloody Romans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015289)

Gladiators, orgies, toga parties, lions and Christians, Roman Catholicism, fiddling emperors, Byzantine Generals problem, assassinations, Latin, the Senate, demagoguery, pasta.

Re:Bloody Romans! (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44015403)

pasta.

The Romans ate bread, not pasta. Noodles were invented in China, and didn't reach Europe until the late middle ages. The first record of pasta being made in Italy was in 1154.

Re:Bloody Romans! (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 10 months ago | (#44015495)

pasta.

The Romans ate bread, not pasta. Noodles were invented in China, and didn't reach Europe until the late middle ages. The first record of pasta being made in Italy was in 1154.

So Pastafarianism is an Oriental religion?

Re:Bloody Romans! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015777)

pasta.

The Romans ate bread, not pasta. Noodles were invented in China, and didn't reach Europe until the late middle ages. The first record of pasta being made in Italy was in 1154.

That's why its called Ramen noodles instead of Roman noodles ;-)

Re:Bloody Romans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015311)

Ah, something with concrete or other? And all those tourist traps in southern Italia, those too. Price was a bit steep though, quite a warry people, them. ROMANI ITE DOMUM indeed.

What gets me, though, is that these trick cyclists came up with this on a single sample. Surely they could've done a little comparising. But perhaps they're deliberately saving that for another paper, you know, to justify the inevitable "more research needed" ending of this one.

And also, while the Romans did have quite a bit more technology than we commonly think back then (taximeters, ...), that doesn't change that apparently we haven't even tried to figure out their concrete before. Even though it's just about everywhere and we very well knew it was superior to what we had access to. Who's the lazy bum now, eh?

Re:Bloody Romans! (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 10 months ago | (#44015477)

... that doesn't change that apparently we haven't even tried to figure out their concrete before. Even though it's just about everywhere and we very well knew it was superior to what we had access to. Who's the lazy bum now, eh?

As mentioned in a previous thread, we haven't tried to figure out their concrete because we haven't had to... they left us the recipe, and it's been discussed through the centuries by anyone remotely interested in the stuff.

It just doesn't have all the properties (structural, cost and availability) that are desirable for most modern construction. Makes good statues / fake rocks though.

Judean People's Front (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015413)

no, we're the People's Front of Judea! bloody Romans.

Re:Bloody Romans! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015475)

Add central heating to that list.

ok but what have the romans ever done for us? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015189)

this comment left intentional blank

Quick, patent it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015197)

You know you want to.

I find it oddly disturbing (0)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 10 months ago | (#44015209)

That the title of the article has flopped the whole topic from strength and durability to carbon emissions.

The authors fail to point out that large scale mining of tuff by Corporations will only encourage volcanism.

Well there's a news flash. (4, Funny)

interval1066 (668936) | about 10 months ago | (#44015265)

The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique.

Oh? Really? Its not becuase the Romans made sacrifices to Jupiter? They didn't make their concrete with a recipe given to them by ancients astronauts? The secret lies with thier recipe and technique? Who knew?

Duh (2)

fnj (64210) | about 10 months ago | (#44015285)

Cement is not concrete. Concrete is made of cement plus aggregate.

Re: Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015339)

So... concrete is abstract because the actual thing is rocks with cement between them?

Opus caementitium (2, Informative)

no-body (127863) | about 10 months ago | (#44015299)

Researched and published over 30 years ago. Known technology for decades. Could reduce the 7 % of total carbon dioxide output on planet generated by cement production.

Anything changed in 3 decades - will anything change in the near future in a billion $ industry?

BOHA!

Revolutionize or "more eco-friendly"? (5, Informative)

tijnbraun (226978) | about 10 months ago | (#44015309)

From http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/06/04/roman-concrete/ [berkeley.edu] While Roman concrete is durable, Monteiro said it is unlikely to replace modern concrete because it is not ideal for construction where faster hardening is needed. But the researchers are now finding ways to apply their discoveries about Roman concrete to the development of more earth-friendly and durable modern concrete. They are investigating whether volcanic ash would be a good, large-volume substitute in countries without easy access to fly ash, an industrial waste product from the burning of coal that is commonly used to produce modern, green concrete. “There is not enough fly ash in this world to replace half of the Portland cement being used,” said Monteiro. “Many countries don’t have fly ash, so the idea is to find alternative, local materials that will work, including the kind of volcanic ash that Romans used. Using these alternatives could replace 40 percent of the world’s demand for Portland cement.”

NEWSFLASH (3, Interesting)

somepunk (720296) | about 10 months ago | (#44015345)

Application specific concrete that has stood up for two millenia beats our common, everyday, casual-use concrete. Compare it to the stuff used for capping deep water oil wells and I'll be more impressed. [/sarcasm]

Re:NEWSFLASH (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015493)

They don't build them like they used to, now get off my corona graminea.

Re:NEWSFLASH (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 10 months ago | (#44015915)

Yup - obviously the Roman stuff has essentially had the benefit of selection applied. I wouldn't be surprised if the Romans had a bunch of ways of making cement, but the stuff we notice is the stuff that is still around.

That said, nothing wrong with learning from it all. We don't really have any modern materials that have gone through 2000-year stability tests under real-world conditions. Stuff that we fortuitously have at hand to study could turn up other useful finds.

People discovered this in 86 it seems. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44015395)

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozzolana

Cook D.J. (1986) Natural pozzolanas. In: Swamy R.N., Editor (1986) Cement Replacement Materials, Surrey University Press, p. 200.
Lechtman H. and Hobbs L. (1986) "Roman Concrete and the Roman Architectural Revolution", Ceramics and Civilization Volume 3: High Technology Ceramics: Past, Present, Future, edited by W.D. Kingery and published by the American Ceramics Society, 1986; and Vitruvius, Book II:v,1; Book V:xii2.
McCann A.M. (1994) "The Roman Port of Cosa" (273 BC), Scientific American, Ancient Cities, pp. 92–99, by Anna Marguerite McCann. Covers, hydraulic concrete, of "Pozzolana mortar" and the 5 piers, of the Cosa harbor, the Lighthouse on pier 5, diagrams, and photographs. Height of Port city: 100 BC.
Mertens, G.; R. Snellings, K. Van Balen, B. Bicer-Simsir, P. Verlooy, J. Elsen (2009). "Pozzolanic reactions of common natural zeolites with lime and parameters affecting their reactivity". Cement and Concrete Research 39 (3): 233–240. doi:10.1016/j.cemconres.2008.11.008. ISSN 0008-8846. Retrieved 2009-03-23.

Its the good stuff that lasts (5, Insightful)

starkadder (819862) | about 10 months ago | (#44016037)

I'm sure that Roman concrete greatly varied in quality. Every batch was an experiment using local materials.The crap that didln't last for 25 year is long gone. All we have left to look at today are the results of successful experiments. And it is a wise thing to learn from it. But to consider everything the ancients built as evidence of their genius disregards the winnowing of time. Good stuff lasts, bad stuff falls apart and is discarded.
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