WKU civil engineering student presents concrete research

Andrew Iglehart, WKU’s major in civil engineering, has a rock-solid research project.

Iglehart presented Low Carbon Concrete: A Roman Empire Approach to Concrete virtually on October 6 during the inauguration International Conference on Cement and Low Carbon Concrete.

The Versailles senior has researched reducing carbon emissions for cement and concrete since the manufacture and production of Portland cement produces 8 percent of all carbon emissions.

“I came across the longevity of Roman concrete,” Iglehart said. “Modern concrete has an average lifespan of one hundred years, but Roman-era concrete lasted for thousands of years.”

In his article, Iglehart discusses the process and composition of cement developed in Roman times and the importance of further research.

“Roman concrete survives in saltwater conditions, and modern concrete cannot survive in this environment,” said Iglehart. “It is concluded that the Romans used volcanic ash in their concrete as a ‘secret ingredient’. When mixed with salt water, volcanic ash creates aluminum tobermorite which adds to the strength of the concrete, ”he said. “With an excess of volcanic ash in the concrete, the salt water will increasingly make the concrete stronger. This then gives the concrete its longevity.

Iglehart also noted that the creation of cement hasn’t changed much over the past few thousand years, but the main component is the kiln. Modern ovens operate at around 1,450 degrees Celsius and Roman ovens operate at 900 degrees Celsius. “This massive drop in temperature could reduce modern carbon emissions, and with volcanic ash, concrete could be more waterproof,” he said. “The main problem with Roman concrete is that their concrete took 180 days to be fully placed, and modern concrete takes 28 days. A combination for modern and Roman concrete could be a major benefit and a breakthrough for the environment and the concrete industry.

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