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Week in Tech: Ancient Concrete That Strengthens Over Time | Architect Magazine

Plus, a crystal “sponge” that can absorb carbon dioxide, the coming cooling divide between wealthy countries and lower-income countries, and more design-tech news.

Marie Jackson Scanning electron microscopy image of tomb mortar
Marie Jackson Scanning electron microscopy image of tomb mortar

 

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Intrigued by the durability of some ancient Roman structures, researchers from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City have taken a closer look at the concrete used to construct the tomb of Caecilia Metella, a firsst century Roman noblewoman. Located along the ancient Appian Way road—now located in southern Italy—Metella’s 70-foot-tall tomb is considered one of the area’s best-preserved monuments, according to the university. Aiming to understand the source of that resilience, the researchers sampled and analyzed the concrete used to bind the tomb’s bricks, finding that its mortar contained “volcanic tephra” rich in strätlingite crystals. These crystals “block the propagation of microcracks in the mortar, preventing them from linking together and fracturing the concrete structure,” states a university press release. Thanks to a binder of calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate, the tephra “remodeled” the concrete, strengthening it over time.

Marie Jackson Lava overlying volcanic tephra in tomb substructure
Marie Jackson Lava overlying volcanic tephra in tomb substructure

The scientists are now working to replicate those effects in modern-day concrete, aiming to improve its lifespan and reduce the carbon emissions associated with concrete production and installation. “Focusing on designing modern concretes with constantly reinforcing interfacial zones might provide us with yet another strategy to improve the durability of modern construction materials,” said researcher and MIT professor Admir Masic in the same release. “Doing this through the integration of time-proven ‘Roman wisdom’ provides a sustainable strategy that could improve the longevity of our modern solutions by orders of magnitude.” [University of Utah]

University of Amsterdam Centre for Urban Mental Health
University of Amsterdam Centre for Urban Mental Health

The University of Amsterdam’s Center for Urban Mental Health has published a study proposing a new framework for studying the ways that cities impact mental health. The researchers proposed that negative feedback loops can stem from factors including limited green spaces, loud and heavy traffic, and increased pollution, and that, once established, the feedback loops can cause mental health problems in individuals that then have a “negative impact on the social cohesion of the neighborhood, which in turn can have a negative effect on the residents,” said Claudi Bockting, co-director of UMH, in a university press release. [University of Amsterdam]

Read on >>> Source: Week in Tech: Ancient Concrete That Strengthens Over Time | Architect Magazine

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