The road to low-carbon concrete

Enlarge / Cement works, Ipswich, Suffolk, UK. (Photo by BuildPix/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)Construction Photography/Avalon via Getty Images

Nobody knows who did it first, or when. But by the 2nd or 3rd century BCE, Roman engineers were routinely grinding up burnt limestone and volcanic ash to make caementum: a powder that would start to harden as soon as it was mixed with water.

They made extensive use of the still-wet slurry as mortar for their brick- and stoneworks. But they had also learned the value of stirring in pumice, pebbles, or pot shards along with the water: Get the proportions right, and

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