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Concrete is a construction material composed of cement (commonly Portland cement) as well as other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate (generally a coarse aggregate such as gravel, limestone, or granite, plus a fine aggregate such as sand), water, and chemical admixtures. The word concrete comes from the Latin word "concretus", which means "hardened" or "hard".  Many ancient civilizations used forms of concrete using dried mud, straw, and other materials.

 

During the Roman Empire, Roman concrete was made from quicklime, pozzolanic, and an aggregate of pumice; it was very similar to modern Portland cement concrete. The widespread use of concrete in many Roman structures has ensured that many survive almost intact to the present day. The Baths of Caracalla in Rome are just one example of the longevity of concrete, which allowed the Romans to build this and similar structures across the Roman Empire. Many Roman aqueducts have masonry cladding to a concrete core, a technique they used in structures such as the Pantheon, Rome, the interior dome of which is unclad concrete.

 

The secret of concrete was lost for 13 centuries until 1756, when the British engineer John Smeaton pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete, using pebbles and powdered brick as aggregate. Portland cement was first used in concrete in the early 1840’s.

 

Recently, the use of recycled materials as concrete ingredients is gaining popularity because of increasingly stringent environmental legislation. The most conspicuous of these is fly ash, a by-product of coal-fired power plants. This has a significant impact by reducing the amount of quarrying and landfill space required, and, as it acts as a cement replacement, reduces the amount of cement required to produce a solid concrete.

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