It is amazing how Rome's ancient monuments have survived over two millennia, especially looking at them in the 21st century. These structures were made of Roman concrete that 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.
They published their study in the journal Materials and Design. The study's findings could help scientists develop stronger and more eco-friendly concrete than what is being used today.
Rare Aluminous Tobermorite Found in the Walls of A Power Plant
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.
They took some concrete samples from the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, which operated for over three decades from 1976 to 2009.
After an in-depth analysis, they found that the walls of the reactor were able to retain moisture. According to Phys.org, the minerals in the concrete react to the presence of water, which increased the availability of silicon and aluminum ions and the wall's alkaline content, leading to the formation of aluminous tobermorite.
How Did the Marine Barrier Survive for Over 2,000 Years?
According to studies, Roman concrete used in the construction of marine barriers could survive for more than two millennia because the Roman concrete undergoes a unique chemical reaction when underwater.
Phys.org reported that the seawater dissolves the volcanic ash, which is one of the components of Roman concrete, which leads to the formation of aluminous tobermorite. It makes the concrete more chemically stable and stronger, given that this rare material is a crystal.
Roman Concrete vs. Modern Concrete
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.
Machin Design reported that researchers believe that by taking something from the recipes of making the Roman concrete, they would make a modern concrete that is more durable and corrosion-free to continue protecting the people living on the coastline.
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