Materials World August 2017
Research relies not only on experimentation but on knowledge of what has gone before. This month, Simon Frost follows up on a story about Roman concrete formulations, which caused a bit of a buzz in the news after a study into the ancient concrete structures that remain intact in seawater was published in American Mineralogist.
Paul Lambert, a senior engineer with a vast knowledge of concrete, was less than impressed by the wider coverage of the research – headlines such as ‘Mystery of 2000-year-old Roman concrete solved by scientists’ and ‘Ancient Romans were way better at making concrete’ had resulted in his organisation being ‘absolutely overwhelmed by emails from well-meaning individuals who feared we may have missed something important’. The sensational version of a scientific (or any) story seems to have a wider appeal, especially in the age of social media, where some news outlets make an increasing proportion of their revenue from clicks.
Paul’s reservations on the research are included in the story, but doesn't detract from the pursuit of the researchers to gain a full understanding of how the ongoing mineralisation in Roman concrete occurs. As with metals, polymers and composites, new formulations for cementitious materials are constantly being developed, and understanding the breadth of successful synthesis techniques and material formulations is essential to this. The theme of this issue is recreation.