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A brief history of cement

The word cement comes from the Latin "caementum, " meaning mortar binding masonry. This original meaning has been retained by applying only to hydraulic binders, i.e. those capable of hardening on contact with water.



The Greeks were the first builders to use lime obtained by firing limestone. The Romans improved this binder by adding

volcanic ash and crushed bricks and thus obtained a hydraulic binder, intermediate between lime and real cement. This binder makes possible the construction of great works such as arenas, thermal baths, amphitheaters, or aqueducts, some of which are still perfectly preserved twenty centuries later.

It was in the 18th century that the first hydraulic limes similar to modern cement were produced, mainly due to progress made in firing processes. In 1759, the Englishman John Smeaton produced a mortar as hard as stone by mixing hydraulic limes and volcanic ash.

The Frenchman Louis Vicat discovered the chemical principles of cement in 1817 and defined the rules for manufacturing hydraulic cement. He is considered the inventor of modern cement, but he published his work without taking out patents.

The Englishman Joseph Aspdin patented "Portland" cement in 1824, obtained from a calcination process combining the firing of limestone and clay in coal-fired ovens. The name "Portland", due simply to the similarity of color and hardness with the stone of Portland (South of England), is currently still used in the industry.



In Belgium, the first cement factory was established in 1872 (Mr. Dufossez and Henry established the country's first Portland cement production plant in Cronfestu). From the end of the 19th century, modern concrete based on Portland cement became a widely used building material.

Many improvements were made during the 20th century to the manufacture of cement, in particular with the production of special cement, without however modifying the physicochemical characteristics and the fundamental properties of Portland cement.


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