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Microstructure and water absorption of ancient concrete from Pompeii: An integrated synchrotron microtomography and neutron radiography characterization


There is renewed interest in using advanced techniques to characterize ancient Roman concrete due to its exceptional durability and low-carbon footprint. In the present work, samples were drilled from the “Hospitium” in Pompeii and were analyzed by synchrotron microtomography (μCT) and neutron radiography to study how the microstructure, including the presence of induced cracks, affects their water adsorption. The water distribution and absorptivity were quantified by neutron radiography. The 3D crack propagation, pore size distribution and orientation, tortuosity, and connectivity were analyzed from μCT results using advanced imaging methods. Porosity was also measured by mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP) as a reference. Ductile fracture patterns were observed once cracks were introduced. Compared to Portland cement mortar/concrete, the Pompeii samples had relatively high porosity, low connectivity, and a similar coefficient of capillary penetration. In addition, permeability was predicted from models based on percolation theory and pore structure data to evaluate the fluid transport properties. Understanding the microstructure of ancient Pompeii concrete is important because it could inspire the development of modern concrete with high durability.

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