Conservation and materials science - or: how historic concrete can pave the way for innovative research approaches

Historical building materials
© Shutterstock / Sergey Kamshylin

Many historical building materials - such as ancient Roman concrete - are incredibly hardwearing and in some cases far superior to today’s building materials. But what makes these materials so durable? Can these properties be transferred to new building materials? An interdisciplinary team from the field of conservation and materials science is conducting research on this topic.

Taking advantage of the unique properties of building materials used in the distant past

We focus on understanding the various properties of the materials used by our predecessors and on transferring them to future applications. In this way, our research work lays the foundation for innovative development concepts for modern industrial products as well as for new methods of preserving our cultural heritage. Our team concentrates on three key working fields:

  • Analyzing the aging processes of materials used to construct and preserve historical buildings 
  • Sustainably preserving historical building materials
  • Using historical building materials as a source of inspiration to develop materials for the 21st century

Our experts analyze historical building materials both in-situ (on site) and ex-situ (e.g. in the laboratory), using methods covering the entire spectrum, from macro- through meso- to nano-scale. The aim is not only to determine compositions and the raw materials used, but also to understand and quantify aging processes.

Preserving historical treasures and developing new building materials

The results are incorporated into our applied conservation work. This involves reconstructing historic materials (including building technologies) and developing suitable restoration plasters and other conservation materials. Findings from long-term studies (e.g. to assess durability) contribute to sustainable conservation methods.

Last but not least, ancient building materials with exceptional material properties and excellent durability serve as a source of inspiration for the development of tomorrow’s innovative building materials. Resource efficiency and durability are key aspects of our research work.

Have we aroused your interest? Then get in touch with us!