Concrete surrounds us in our day to day lives. It’s for everything from the streets we walk on, to the buildings we live in. It’s extremely difficult to imagine a modern city without concrete. Due to its incredible strength and wide array of applications, it can be used for nearly everything!
Despite the fact that we are so familiar with concrete, I bet there are a few things you didn’t know about it!
The Most Widely Used Material In The World
Concrete is all around us, all of the time! So, it may not surprise you that concrete is the most widely used material in the entire world. But did you know that people around the world use more than 20 billion tons of concrete every year?
And did you know that China uses the most out of any other country? They use more than half of all of the concrete the world produces every single year! And, according to the Washington Post, from the year 2011 to 2013, China used more cement than the United States used during the entirety of the 20th Century.
In fact, the largest concrete structure in the world is the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China. It uses over 16 million cubic meters equaling 100 billion pounds of concrete, stretching a length of 2,309 meters, and reaching 185 meters high!
Concrete Has Been Around For A Very Long Time
Twelve million years ago in Israel, concrete was formed naturally in nature. The Egyptians even used a form of concrete during the construction of the great pyramids. But it was the Romans who really perfected the craft. In fact, the word concrete is derived from the latin word “concretus” which means “grow together.”
The Romans used water, lime, and volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius to create a concrete that they called “pozzolana.” Some of their brilliant concrete constructions even stand today, including concrete piers at Cosa, and the Pantheon in Rome, which is still the world’s largest unsupported concrete structure.
Interestingly, concrete was mostly forgotten during the Dark Ages. It wasn’t until after the Middle Ages that concrete once again became the building material of choice.
The British Used Concrete To Listen For Enemy Aircraft
During WW2, the British built gigantic concrete “mirrors” to reflect the sound of incoming aircraft. This was in the days before radar so they needed a way to sound the alarm in case of an incoming air raid.
These massive concrete structures were made in a parabolic shape that could capture sound up to 27 miles away and funnel it into a microphone. These megalithic structures were built up and down England’s coast and can still be seen today!
1909 Marks The Construction Of The First Concrete Highway
The first concrete road ever built was built in what is now northwest Detroit. The road was only a mile long, and boasted a construction cost of $13,429.83. The Wayne County Road Commission, the group responsible for the project, counted Henry Ford among its members.
Before this, roads were either made from bricks or cobblestones, or a material called macadam, which is a mix of tar and stones. 1909 brought in the age of the smooth ride!
Thomas Edison Used Concrete For His Inventions
The great inventor Thomas Edison dabbled in the use of concrete for his inventions, Some of his ideas included the use of concrete for houses or even furniture! He holds 49 patents for ideas that use concrete in their design
Concrete Is Highly Resistant To Fire And Water
Concrete stands up great against flames. It can’t be burned or set on fire, nor will it release toxic fumes when exposed to heat. It is even great at deflecting heat. It can withstand temperatures up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit! This makes it an excellent building material, as it can easily withstand a building fire.
Special mixes can also make concrete basically waterproof! This makes it ideal for use in basements, and even construction underwater.
Concrete Gets Stronger Over Time
Concrete has reached 90% of its maximum strength after the first 4 weeks, but it continues to harden that last 10% for decades! It slowly absorbs carbon dioxide, converting calcium hydroxide into calcium carbonate. Some bacteria can even play a role in the hardening of concrete!