Volume X / 2021
The University of Texas at Arlington | College of Engineering
Ruins of an ancient city

Unlocking Ancient Secrets

Civil engineering assistant Professor Warda Ashraf is delving into the ancient worlds of Rome, Greece, and more to determine why their construction materials have lasted so long and whether they can be recreated synthetically in a laboratory.

“Most structures in the United States are designed to last around 50 to 100 years,” she says. “There are several building structures in European countries that are 2,000 years old and still performing well. Why are they so much better than our current construction materials?”

Dr. Ashraf received a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award to fund her investigation of the buildings, structures, and roads that have endured for centuries.

Previous research has demonstrated that certain combinations of volcanic ash and seawater were used in the composition of those ancient structures.

“The goal of this project is to mimic this ancient technology to produce highly durable and resilient construction material,” Ashraf explains. “We will use ingredients that are easily available in the U.S. to achieve similar performance.”

Ali Abolmaali, chair of the Civil Engineering Department, believes that Ashraf’s work has significant implications for the civil engineering community.

“Her accumulation of projects in her young, relatively short academic career has been exemplary. This project could rewrite how materials are made around the world.”