Questions for ‘Chemists have unlocked the secrets of long-lasting Roman concrete’

The Pantheon in Rome still stands including its soaring dome.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy, was built around 126 A.D. from concrete. It still stands today, including its soaring dome (shown).

Stephen Knowles Photography/Moment/Getty Images Plus

To accompany ‘Chemists have unlocked the secrets of long-lasting Roman concrete 


Before Reading:

  1. List at least four different materials that can be used to build structures like houses or office buildings. Put the materials in order of how long you think the structures would last, from shortest to longest.
  2. Modern concrete buildings are generally expected to have a lifespan of 50 to 150 years. The Pantheon — a nearly 2,000-year-old concrete building — is still standing in Rome, Italy. What factors might lead to its longevity?

During Reading:

  1. What are the main ingredients in concrete?
  2. Describe the “hot mixing” process of making cement. What is a feature of the cement made using this process?
  3. What are the “inclusions” mentioned in this story? Why did Admir Masic’s team think the presence of these inclusions might not be accidental?
  4. What element is present in inclusions at high levels? Why might that element help concrete last longer?
  5. Why was it risky for Masic’s team to try hot mixing?
  6. How did the researchers compare concrete made with and without hot mixing? What results did they get?
  7. What greenhouse gas does concrete manufacturing produce? Roughly how much does it produce?
  8. According to Masic, what is one challenge in getting concrete manufacturers to adopt new methods?

After Reading:

  1. Think about some of the different types of buildings in the city or town where you live. Do all buildings need to last the same amount of time? Why or why not? If not, which types do you think need to have longer lifespans, and why?
  2. If you were working with Masic’s company, DMAT, how would you encourage builders to buy hot-mixed concrete? Come up with three possible selling points.