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Information about Concrete CoarseConcrete 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" (meaning compact or condensed), the past participle of "concresco", from "com-" (together) and "cresco" (to grow).
Concrete solidifies and hardens after mixing with water and placement due to a chemical process known as hydration. The water reacts with the cement, which bonds the other components together, eventually creating a stone-like material. Concrete is used to make pavements, pipe, architectural structures, foundations, motorways/roads, bridges/overpasses, parking structures, brick/block walls and footings for gates, fences and poles.
Concrete is used more than any other man-made material in the world. As of 2006 (11 years ago), about 7.5 cubic kilometres of concrete are made each year—more than one cubic metre for every person on Earth. Concrete powers a US $35-billion industry which employs more than two million workers in the United States alone. More than 55,000 miles (89,000 km) of highways in the United States are paved with this material. Reinforced concrete and prestressed concrete are the most widely used modern kinds of concrete functional extensions.
HistoryDuring the Roman Empire, Roman concrete (or Opus caementicium) was made from quicklime, pozzolanic ash/pozzolana, and an aggregate of pumice. Its widespread use in many Roman structures, a key event in the history of architecture termed the Concrete Revolution, freed Roman construction from the restrictions of stone and brick material and allowed for revolutionarily new designs both in terms of structural complexity and dimension.
Concrete, as the Romans knew it, was in effect a new and revolutionary material. Laid in the shape of arches, vaults and domes, it quickly hardened into a rigid mass, free from many of the internal thrusts and strains which trouble the builders of similar structures in stone or brick.
Modern tests show Opus caementicium similarly strong as modern Portland cement concrete in its compressive strength (ca. 200 kg/cm2). However, due to the absence of reinforced steel, its tensile strength was far lower and its mode of application was also different:
Modern structural concrete differs from Roman concrete in two important details. First, its mix consistency is fluid and homogeneous, allowing it to be poured into forms rather than requiring hand-layering together with the placement of aggregate, which, in Roman practice, often consisted of rubble. Second, integral reinforcing steel gives modern concrete assemblies great strength in tension, whereas Roman concrete could depend only upon the strength of the concrete bonding to resist tension.
The widespread use of concrete in many Roman structures has ensured that many survive 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 and Roman bridges have masonry cladding to a concrete core, a technique they used in structures such as the Pantheon, the dome of which is concrete.
The secret of concrete was lost for 13 centuries until 1756 (261 years ago), 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 (177 years ago). This version of history has been challenged however, as the Canal du Midi was constructed using concrete in 1670 (347 years ago).
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.
Concrete additives have been used since Roman and Egyptian times, when it was discovered that adding volcanic ash to the mix allowed it to set under water. Similarly, the Romans knew that adding horse hair made concrete less liable to crack while it hardened, and adding blood made it more frost-resistant.
In modern times, researchers have experimented with the addition of other materials to create concrete with improved properties, such as higher strength or electrical conductivity.
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