Unlocking the secrets of Al-tobermorite in Roman seawater concrete

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Jackson M. D. , Chae S. R. , Mulcahy S. R. , MERAL Ç., Taylor R., Li P., ...More

AMERICAN MINERALOGIST, vol.98, no.10, pp.1669-1687, 2013 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 98 Issue: 10
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.2138/am.2013.4484
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.1669-1687
  • Keywords: Al-tobermorite, ancient Roman concrete, bonding environments, volcanic pozzolan, thermal model, NEAPOLITAN YELLOW TUFF, C-S-H, CALCIUM-SILICATE-HYDRATE, CAMPI FLEGREI, CATION-EXCHANGE, ALUMINUM, CALDERA, NMR, EVOLUTION, ERUPTION


Ancient Roman syntheses of Al-tobermorite in a 2000-year-old concrete block submerged in the Bay of Pozzuoli (Baianus Sinus), near Naples, have unique aluminum-rich and silica-poor compositions relative to hydrothermal geological occurrences. In relict lime clasts, the crystals have calcium contents that are similar to ideal tobermorite, 33 to 35 wt%, but the low-silica contents, 39 to 40 wt%, reflect Al3+ substitution for Si4+ in Q(2)(1Al), Q(3)(1Al), and Q(3)(2Al) tetrahedral chain and branching sites. The Al-tobermorite has a double silicate chain structure with long chain lengths in the b [020] crystallographic direction, and wide interlayer spacing, 11.49 angstrom. Na+ and K+ partially balance Al3+ substitution for Si4+. Poorly crystalline calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate (C-A-S-H) cementitious binder in the dissolved perimeter of relict lime clasts has Ca/(Si+Al) = 0.79, nearly identical to the Al-tobermorite, but nanoscale heterogeneities with aluminum in both tetrahedral and octahedral coordination. The concrete is about 45 vol% glassy zeolitic tuff and 55 vol% hydrated lime-volcanic ash mortar; lime formed <10 wt% of the mix. Trace element studies confirm that the pyroclastic rock comes from Flegrean Fields volcanic district, as described in ancient Roman texts. An adiabatic thermal model of the 10 m(2) by 5.7 m thick Baianus Sinus breakwater from heat evolved through hydration of lime and formation of C-A-S-H suggests maximum temperatures of 85 to 97 degrees C. Cooling to seawater temperatures occurred in two years. These elevated temperatures and the mineralizing effects of seawater and alkali- and alumina-rich volcanic ash appear to be critical to Al-tobermorite crystallization. The long-term stability of the Al-tobermorite provides a valuable context to improve future syntheses in innovative concretes with advanced properties using volcanic pozzolans.