Roman-style concrete could help with sea-level rise

Two thousand years ago Roman builders constructed vast sea walls and harbor piers.
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Scientists say durable, environment-resistant ancient Roman concrete structures could play a part in quelling rising sea levels.

Two thousand years ago Roman builders constructed vast sea walls and harbor piers. The concrete they used outlasted the empire — and still holds lessons for modern engineers, scientists told the Washington Post.

The harbor concrete, a mixture of volcanic ash and quicklime, has withstood the sea for two millennia and counting and is stronger than when it was first mixed.

The concrete is “an extraordinarily rich material in terms of scientific possibility,” Philip Brune, a research scientist at DuPont Pioneer who has studied the engineering properties of Roman monuments, told the newspaper. “It's the most durable building material in human history, and I say that as an engineer not prone to hyperbole.

Marie Jackson, an expert in ancient Roman concrete at the University of Utah, is studying samples with her colleagues as part of a project called the Roman Maritime Concrete Study.

If her effort is successful, the concrete could yet have a role to play in human history — “if one was indeed interested in making sea walls” and “forced to protect shoreline environments,” Jackson said.

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