According to a recent article published in Science Advances, researchers have figured out how Roman concrete was able to fix its own cracks. The Romans were experts in the use of their innovative concrete, which had the ability to “self-heal” when exposed to water, causing the cracks in the concrete to disappear. One of the key ingredients in Roman concrete was pozzolana, an ash from Italy that was transported all across the empire. In their research, the scholars noticed lime clasts, small white granules of calcium, in the concrete. When they analyzed these with Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, they discovered the chemical composition of the granules and determined that water dissolves the calcium over time, causing the granules to recrystallize and seal the cracks. With this knowledge, the researchers were able to recreate Roman concrete, pouring cylinders which they intentionally cracked. When they subjected them to water, the cracks disappeared. Herod the Great used Roman concrete in many of his building projects, including at the port of Caesarea Maritima, his palace at Jericho, and his family tomb in Jerusalem.
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