Antiquity-Inspired Construction Materials: Exploring Ancient Technologies to Inspire Sustainable Design

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June 6, 2019 10:30 - 12:30

Empa Dübendorf



Admir Masic is the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and DMSE Faculty Fellow in Archaeological Materials at MIT, Cambridge USA.


His Lab at MIT develops high performance in situ and multiscale characterization methodologies to investigate complex hierarchically organized biological and archeological materials. His group explores ancient technologies as a source of inspiration for the development of a new generation of more durable and sustainable building materials.



We designate as paleo- or antiquity-inspired systems, systems that naturally bear, or can be synthesized with, extraordinary, long-term (mechanical, structural, or chemical) resilience. Understanding their intrinsic properties may therefore point toward ways of synthesizing innovative, new materials, or more sustainable ways of manufacturing existing ones. Ancient Roman mortars, for example, are of interest because of proven durability across both long timescales and various climate and seismic zones while requiring less energy to be produced in comparison to modern ordinary Portland cement (OPC). Heterogeneous at almost all length scales and exhibiting multiple crystalline and amorphous phases, ancient Roman mortars are difficult to characterize. In this work, we employ multiple high-resolution characterization techniques including large area Raman mapping of irregular surfaces and quantified energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) to understand the chemistry of both ancient and modern cementitious materials. The new high throughput, multiscale characterization approaches create the foundation for a general framework to study antiquity-inspired materials so that well-informed additive selections lead to a more durable and sustainable cementitious materials design.