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Concrete is a composite construction material composed primarily of aggregate, cement, and water. There are many formulations, each of which provide varied properties. The aggregate is generally coarse gravel or crushed rocks such as limestone or granite, along with a fine aggregate such as sand. The cement, commonly Portland cement, and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, serve as a binder for the aggregate.
Various chemical admixtures are also added to achieve different properties. Water is then mixed with this dry composite, which enables it to be shaped (typically poured) and then solidified and hardened into rock-hard strength through a chemical process called hydration. The water reacts with the cement, which bonds the other components together, eventually creating a robust stone-like material. Concrete has relatively high compressive strength, but much lower tensile strength. For this reason, it is usually reinforced with materials that are strong in tension (often steel). Concrete can be damaged by many processes, such as the freezing of trapped water.
Concrete is widely used for making architectural structures, foundations, brick/block walls, pavements, bridges/overpasses, motorways/roads, runways, parking structures, dams, pools/reservoirs, pipes, footings for gates, fences and poles, and even boats. Famous concrete structures include the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building), the Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, and the Roman Pantheon. Concrete technology was known by the Ancient Romans and was widely used within the Roman Empire—the Coliseum is largely built of concrete. After the Empire passed, use of concrete became scarce until the technology was re-pioneered in the mid-18th century.