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Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP

Concrete used by the Romans to build their cliff-side cities, bridges and sea walls more than two thousand years ago have withstood time and still stand strong today, while modern concrete exposed to seawater deteriorates within decades.

Now researchers may have figured out what has made Roman concrete so durable, and the University of Utah's Marie Jackson thinks she might be able to recreate it, per the Washington Post. The Roman's secret: the concrete contains tiny crystals that keep it from fracturing.

Why it matters: If successful, the concrete could be used to make sea walls that can protect shoreline environments from flooding and rising seas.

The findings, as detailed by WaPo:

  • Jackson and her colleagues learned that Roman concrete behaves "in many ways, like volcanic deposits in submarine environments." It is filled with tiny growing crystals that act "like tiny armor plates" and keep the concrete from fracturing.
  • A series of tests run by Jackson's team revealed that the aluminous tobermorite crystals were created from a chemical reaction: when seawater flooded through the cracks in the concrete, it reacted with a mineral known as phillipsite found naturally in the volcanic rock.

What's next: "The Romans mined a specific type of volcanic ash from a quarry in Italy" writes WaPo. "Jackson is attempting to recreate this durable concrete using San Francisco seawater and more abundant volcanic rocks. She has several samples sitting in ovens and jars in her lab, which she will test for evidence of similar chemical reactions."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Boris Johnson announces month-long COVID-19 lockdown in U.K.

Prime Minsiter Boris Johnson. Photo: NurPhoto / Getty Images

A new national lockdown will be imposed in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country topped 1 million.

Details: Starting Thursday, people in England must stay at home, and bars and restaurants will close, except for takeout and deliveries. All non-essential retail will also be shuttered. Different households will be banned from mixing indoors. International travel, unless for business purposes, will be banned. The new measures will last through at least December 2.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The massive early vote

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Early voting in the 2020 election across the U.S. on Saturday had already reached 65.5% of 2016's total turnout, according to state data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic and its resultant social-distancing measures prompted a massive uptick in both mail-in ballots and early voting nationwide, setting up an unprecedented and potentially tumultuous count in the hours and days after the polls close on Nov. 3.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat.
  2. World: Greece tightens coronavirus restrictions as Europe cases spike — Austria reimposes coronavirus lockdowns amid surge of infections
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Technology: Fully at-home rapid COVID test to move forward.
  5. States: New York rolls out new testing requirements for visitors.