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Designer Cement

December 15, 2016

What microscopic crystalline shapes yield the strongest, most durable cement?


Multiscale Materials Laboratory Rice University 700

A building block of better cement. (Multiscale Materials Laboratory/Rice University)


Designer cement. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Rice University material scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari is the Martha Stewart of cement, crafting microscopic cement crystals in the shape of cubes, balls, diamonds and prisms. Why give a lowly mineral such a designer’s touch? Shahsavari says that conventional cement is a haphazard assortment of crystal shapes, leading to concrete that’s full of pores and gaps.


And those gaps are sufficient for the concrete properties to degrade as a function of time.


Shahsavari and his team have found a way to use microscopic seeds upon which cement crystals can grow into a variety of shapes. They’ve found that perfect cubes stack together nicely, leading to extremely strong, weather-resistant concrete. The goal is to perfect the crystal shape and size, and scale up production, leading to roads, bridges and buildings that are lighter, stronger and longer lasting. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon