Cement’s basic molecular structure finally decoded
In the 2,000 or so years since the Roman Empire employed a naturally occurring form of cement to build a vast system of concrete aqueducts and other large edifices, researchers have analyzed the molecular structure of natural materials and created entirely new building materials such as steel, which has a well-documented crystalline structure at the atomic scale. Oddly enough, the three-dimensional crystalline structure of cement hydrate — the paste that forms and quickly hardens when cement powder is mixed with water — has eluded scientific attempts at decoding, despite the fact that concrete is the most prevalent man-made material on earth and the focus of a multibillion-dollar industry that is under pressure to clean up its act. A paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week announces the decoding of the three-dimensional structure of the basic unit of cement hydrate by a group of MIT researchers who have adopted the team name of Liquid Stone. Read more.