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Cement manufacturing is a major source of greenhouse gases. But cutting emissions means mastering one of the most complex materials known.
If I had to do it over again, I would supplement my geology curriculum with courses in hydrodynamics and concrete technology. After all, diagenesis is essentially the process of cementation.
This article is a fascinating look into some as-yet-unplumbed mysteries of cement, with inferences for diagenesis.
"... cement powder is mixed with water to form a paste, the consistency of which depends on its intended use — in a bridge piling, say, or a pavement. Most often, the paste is mixed with sand, gravel or larger stones to form concrete. The concrete slurry is then trucked to the construction site and poured into a mould, where it cures in a process that begins quickly but can take months to complete.
'One of the miracles, and the subject of intense research,' says Jennings, “is that the mix stays fluid for the first few hours, after which a furious set of simultaneous chemical reactions starts to produce the products that lead to the hardening process.'
Most important to the final material are the hydration reactions that turn the water and powdered clinker into artificial stone: a matrix of calcium silicate hydrate (CaO–SiO2–H2O, or C–S–H). 'All construction on this planet relies on this liquid-to-stone transition,” says Roland Pellenq, a physical chemist at the CSHub.' "
The immediate takeaway from here is that cementation, or sedimentary diagenesis, as it's known in geology, takes hours to months--not years. The implication is that, if the present really is the key to the past, then most, if not all, cemented sedimentary layers formed in less than a year's time.
Derived from that is the implication that syndepositional deformation, such as unmetamorphosed folds, occurred in that time span as well.
As I said before, fascinating stuff.
Image credit: sdwhaven.deviantart.com
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