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Using Imaging and Geophysical Techniques to Unravel the Physical Properties of Roman Marine Concrete

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, November 1, 2017. 05:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
450 Serra Mall, Building 110, Room 112
Data Scarcity of the Earth and Human Past
Meeting Description: 

For both the Roman Empire and modern society, concrete has played a significant role in development and sustainability. Today, concrete has become the foundation of most cities but has to be replaced and/or improved on the order of decades. For the Roman Empire, marine concrete played an integral role in its expansion throughout the Mediterranean and many of these structures still stand two thousand years later. Despite this, there has been a lack of research into the physical properties and microstructure of Roman concrete in marine environments. In 2014, the Roman maritime concrete survey (ROMACONS) provided us with the most detailed and comprehensive study of marine Roman concrete to date in their book Building for Eternity. While they were able to show similarities in the raw materials used, mix ratios, and cementing components, they did not focus on finding links between the physical properties and how these properties change between harbors in the Mediterranean.

This is a problem that geophysicists are used to dealing with; natural rocks can have wide ranges of physical properties despite being mineralogically the same. Through the application of geophysical laboratory measurements and high-resolution imaging we are starting to unravel the properties of Roman marine concrete. In this talk, I will highlight the range of measurements being performed and how they have expanded on the ROMACONS data. This information helps us to both understand the practices used by the Roman engineers who built this material and guide us on how we can improve current concrete practices.

Jackson MacFarlane received his BS in geophysics and applied mathematics from the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 2015. He is currently a PhD candidate in geophysics at Stanford University within the Stanford Rock Physics Lab. He specializes in measuring the physical changes that result from complex rock-fluid interactions in both natural and man-made materials, with a focus on materials of interest for reducing global climate change. He has co-authored papers on monitoring the effects of carbon sequestration in natural rock formations. Currently, he is focusing on the formation of fibrous calcium silicate hydrate minerals found within hyper-alkaline geothermal systems, modern cements and ancient Roman marine concrete.