You may not know it, but the concrete we use to make our skyscrapers and bridges is the result of centuries of research and development. Here is an overview of this little‑known material:
Without a doubt, the ancestor of modern concrete is clay. Although it did not have all the properties of today’s concrete, it was used by Mesopotamians to erect dwellings that were well suited to the needs of the time. Ancient peoples used mortar, shaped into bricks, to build their homes. The Egyptians used lime mixed with other substances like clay, water and sand.
While the Romans are best known for their conquests, they were also great innovators. To build new structures like bridges, Romans used a forerunner of modern concrete: mortar mixed with stones of a variety of shapes and sizes.
During the Middle Ages, concrete became less important due to major advances in metallurgy. Considering the great number of battles and crusades waged during this period, it’s no wonder people preferred to protect knights rather than develop new construction materials.
In 1756, John Smeaton, a British engineer, discovered that the most effective lime mortar was achieved by mixing limestone with clay. More and more scientists became interested in the possibilities afforded by this new procedure, and concrete structures began to dominate the skylines of major cities. Between 1894 and 1904, architect Anatole de Baudot undertook the construction of the St-Jean de Montmartre church in Paris, one of the first religious buildings made out of concrete.
Today, concrete is composed of a much more complex mix. The type of concrete mentioned above was mainly dirt concrete, as it was mixed with clay, while modern concrete is cement concrete, and is found in most structures. It consists of cement, aggregates (fragments of rock), water and additives (substances that alter the properties of the concrete as desired). More and more, architects and developers are using this versatile material in residential and commercial construction.
Scientists throughout the world are trying to integrate new properties into cement: bioluminescence, electrical conductivity, self-cleaning concrete—every possibility is being researched and developed. For an idea of the benefits a good quality concrete and a polyurethane, polyaspartic or polyurea coating can bring to your home, garage or business, visit the Surfacex website.
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