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Modern Concrete
Said to be the most common of all man made materials. It an artificial stone made by combining water with various aggregates and a binding material which most commonly is Portland Cement.
Portland Cement
The most common of the cement binders used for making concrete, mortars and grouts. It consists of a finely ground inorganic powder (mainly limestone} that when water is added to it it binds to other materials and sets hard after a period of time.

concrete pour to a driveway
Modern concrete: A small driveway being laid in concrete.

freshly mixed concrete
Modern concrete: A handful of freshly mixed concrete straight out of the transit mixer

The concrete that we use today started it's development when a guy called John Smeaton first started experimenting with hydrated lime as a binder for aggregate in the 1850's. Smeaton was in fact the very first civil engineer and he set up the first society to differentiate them from the military and mechanical engineers of Britain at the time.

After Smeaton various people took his ideas further but it fell to another Englishman, Joseph Aspdin to finally patented a method of manufacturing a type of slow setting cement from which he made a product called "Portland Cement" which he named after a quality building stone of the time Portland Stone. The name stuck even though Portland Cement as we know it today is quite different.

"Cement is made by heating limestone (calcium carbonate), with small quantities of other materials (such as clay) to 1450°C in a kiln, in a process known as calcination, whereby a molecule of carbon dioxide is liberated from the calcium carbonate to form calcium oxide, or quicklime, which is then blended with the other materials that have been included in the mix . The resulting hard substance, called 'clinker', is then ground with a small amount of gypsum into a powder to make 'Ordinary Portland Cement', the most commonly used type of cement (often referred to as OPC)." Quote from Wikipedia.

Modern concrete is further defined as being Mass Concrete or Reinforced Concrete

iron bands holdin a medieval tower together
The builders of the 6Th-century basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe well knew the tensile strength of wrought iron bands that would stop the walls of their bell tower from bulging outwards under the weight of the brickwork above.

  • Concrete in all it's forms from Roman concrete onwards is very strong in compression, that is when it has load pressing down on it.
  • With the start of the industrial age civil engineers very soon found out that structures like bridge beams needed something more than the adhesive properties of the cement binder to resist the tension forces created in their beams.
  • The use iron straps, rods, bolts and even chains has been used since ancient times to restrict the tensile forces trying to pull buildings apart.
  • Knowing the tensile strength of iron and later steel the early civil engineers embedded rods or bars into wet concrete to give us the brilliant engineering material that we now call reinforced concrete.

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Adam Smith 1723-1790

"When we build, let us think that we build for ever."John Ruskin 1819-1900

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Please Note! The information on this site is offered as a guide only!  When we are talking about areas where building regulations or safety regulations could exist,the information here could be wrong for your area.  It could be out of date!  Regulations breed faster than rabbits!
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