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Utah researcher pitches Roman concrete product to 'Shark Tank'

Utah researcher pitches Roman concrete product to 'Shark Tank'

(Chris Carlson, YouTube)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — A former University of Utah graduate has developed a concrete formula that he says resembles ancient Roman concrete to make structures stronger.

Modern buildings and structures are built with Portland cement, an ingredient of concrete that usually lasts around 50 years. Ancient Roman concrete, on the other hand, has been around more than 2,000 years, according to researcher and entrepreneur Chris Carlson.

Carlson graduated from the University of Utah in 2004 with a degree in material science and became interested in the ancient Roman technology and started researching it.

Carlson has since developed a formula that he plans to take to Morongo Casino in Cabazon, Calif. on March 8 to pitch to the “Shark Tank” casting team, an ABC reality TV show where entrepreneurs present their business ideas to “shark” investors.

“I’m a moron, so I thought I’d go,” Carlson said in an email.

Carlson told KSL.com he unveiled the product earlier this year at the 2018 World of Concrete convention in Las Vegas. “We’ve reinvented Roman concrete,” he said.

For centuries, the secret to what makes Roman structures so durable has been a mystery. In a study published in the American Mineralogist in 2017, the authors, including University of Utah civil engineering researcher Marie Jackson, shed light on the physical makeup and chemical processes that make Roman concrete so reliable.

The Guardian reported on Jackson’s discovery of “The Roman recipe - a mix of volcanic ash, lime (calcium oxide), seawater and lumps of volcanic rock. … Moreover, in contrast to modern materials, the ancient water-based structures became stronger over time.”

Carlson said he worked with Jackson and other researchers but eventually began working in a different direction.

Carlson’s website, concrete-roman.com, explains the benefits of Roman concrete: “This is exactly like Portland cement, only half the weight, half the density and twice the activity.”

Another benefit of Roman concrete is that it strengthens over time, Carlson said. When the concrete interacts with seawater, it creates new minerals that add to the concrete’s overall strength.

“What it does is it homogenizes your concrete and makes it stronger,” Carlson said.

Now that he has a product, Carlson said his focus is on getting people to invest in the costly business venture.

"The next step (is) to get investors,” Carlson said. “Because we’ve got orders coming in everywhere, from Saipan to Saskatchewan.”

While Carlson does not see Roman concrete replacing Portland cement on a large scale anytime soon, he said even adding a small percentage of Roman concrete to mixtures “give it exactly what it’s missing.”

When he pitches his product on March 8, Carlson will find out if “Shark Tank” investors will invest in his product. The show’s tenth season is scheduled to air in fall 2018.

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