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Pozzolana, also known as pozzolanic ash, is a fine, sandy volcanic ash, originally discovered and dug in Italymarker at Pozzuolimarker in the region around Vesuviusmarker, but later at a number of other sites. Vitruvius speaks of four types of pozzolana: black, white, grey and red, all of which can be found in the volcanic areas of Italy, such as Naplesmarker.

Pozzolana is a siliceous and aluminous material which reacts with calcium hydroxide in the presence of water to form compounds possessing cementitious properties at room temperature and that have the ability to set under water. It transformed the possibilities for making concrete structures, although it took the Romans some time to discover its full potential. Typically it was mixed two-to-one with lime just prior to mixing with water. The Roman port at Cosamarker was built of Pozzolana that was poured underwater, apparently using a long tube to carefully lay it up without allowing sea water to mix with it. The three piers are still visible today, with the underwater portions in generally excellent condition after 2100 years.

Modern pozzolanic cements are a mix of natural or industrial pozzolans and Portland cement. In addition to underwater use, the high alkalinity of pozzolana makes it especially resistant to common forms of corrosion from sulfates. Once fully hardened, the Portland cement-Pozzolana blend may be stronger than Portland cement, due to its lower porosity, which also makes it more resistant to water absorption and spalling.

Some industrial sources of materials with pozzolanic properties are: Class F (silicious) fly ash from coal-fired power plants, silica fume from silicon production, rice husk ash from rice paddy-fields (agriculture), and metakaolin from oil sand operations. Metakaolin, a powerful pozzolan, can also be manufactured, and is valued for making white concrete.

Other industrial waste products used in Portland composite cements include Class C (calcareous) fly ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag.

Pozzolanic reaction

See also


  • Cook D.J. (1986) Natural pozzolanas. In: Swamy R.N., Editor (1986) Cement Replacement Materials, Surrey University Press, p. 200.
  • McCann A.M. (1994) "The Roman Port of Cosa" (273 BC), Scientific American, Ancient Cities, pp. 92–99, by Anna Marguerite McCann. Covers, hydraulic concrete, of "Pozzolana mortar" and the 5 piers, of the Cosamarker harbor, the Lighthouse on pier 5, diagrams, and photographs. Height of Port city: 100 BC.

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