100-Year Concrete Study Results Published

Nancy Anderson
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The University of Wisconsin-Madison reports that they now have 100 years of test data from concrete specimens cast in 1910. This marks the conclusion of one of the longest running experimental test series undertaken by a single academic institution to date. And they’ve still got two more test series underway.

Started in 1910 by then-professor Owen Withey, students cast 100 years worth of test samples of various concrete compositions, and stored them both indoors and exposed to the elements. At regular intervals, they were tested to destruction, and the data recorded to show the changes in strength of the various samples throughout the test series lifetime. Additional samples were cast in 1923 and 1937.

In 1973, the 50-year results from the second casting series were made available, showing that the samples mixed coarser-ground cements had continued to increase in compressive strength when stored in weathering conditions. Samples mixed with finer-grained cement particles had reached their maximum strength 25 years earlier. Information such as this has informed structural code through the twentieth century.

The results of this experiment are eminently practical, as concrete structures nearing the end of their expected useful lives can now be more accurately assessed in their capacity. Previously, there was little to no direction for structures nearing the end of their expected lifespans, typically 50- to 100-years-old.

The University of Wisconsin has a detailed report on the history of this project in their newsroom.

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Mike Wrightly is mostly diesel fumes and duct tape; he grew up around heavy equipment, and holds a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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