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Roman Seawater Concrete Holds the Secret to Cutting Carbon Emissions Print
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 00:00

An international team led by Paulo Monteiro of the Advanced Light Source and UC Berkeley has analyzed samples of Roman concrete from harbor installations that have survived 2,000 years of chemical attack and wave action, “one of the most durable construction materials on the planet,” says UC Berkeley’s Marie Jackson, a leading member of the team. Says Monteiro, “It’s not that modern concrete isn’t good, but manufacturing Portland cement accounts for seven percent of the carbon dioxide that industry puts into the air.” The carbon footprint of Roman concrete, made from lime, volcanic ash, and seawater, is much smaller.

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Drill core of volcanic ash-hydrated lime mortar from the ancient port of Baiae in Pozzuloi Bay. Yellowish inclusions are pumice, dark stony fragments are lava, gray areas consist of other volcanic crystalline materials, and white spots are lime. Inset is a scanning electron microscope image of the special Al-tobermorite crystals that are key to the superior quality of Roman seawater concrete.