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Concrete Ideas

Recreating ancient technology today

Assistant Professor Warda Ashraf

Assistant Professor Warda Ashraf

Assistant Professor Warda Ashraf hopes to unlock the secrets of the ancient world with her newest project. With funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Young Faculty Award, the civil engineer will explore how civilizations thousands of years ago built structures, roads, and other buildings that still endure today and whether their construction materials can be re-created synthetically in a laboratory.

“Most structures in the United States are designed to last around 50 to 100 years,” Dr. Ashraf says. “There are several building structures in European countries that are 2,000 years old and still performing well. Why are they so much better than the current building materials?”

Previous research shows that certain combinations of volcanic ash and seawater were used in the composition of ancient structures in Rome, Greece, and other sites.

“The goal of this project is to mimic this ancient technology to produce highly durable and resilient construction material,” Ashraf says. “We will use ingredients that are easily available in the U.S. to achieve similar performance.”

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