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Concrete Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in the world, with current consumption of about 10 billion

tonnes every year. The ability of concrete to withstand the effect of water (unlike steel and wood) and the ability to mold concrete into various shapes while plastic and provide strength when hardened, has led to its widespread use. When one thinks of formulations, concrete does not come readily to mind. However, concrete is indeed a formulation in that it is composed of several components, which when mixed in defined proportions, and manner gives concrete its final performance characteristics, workability and strength. Workability is a measure of the ease of handling, and placing the concrete and its resistance to segregation in the plastic stage, while strength is the resistance to failure under compressive load. Concrete is a mixture of paste and aggregates. The paste coats the aggregates (both coarse and fine), and once it sets, binds the aggregates in a solid mass providing strength. The paste forms 25% - 40% of the total volume of concrete, and is made up of cement, water and air. The cement itself is made of several components, the major ones being tricalcium and dicalcium silicates, tricalcium aluminate and tetracalcium aluminoferrite. The reaction of water with caclium silicates gives rise to a gel-like substance called calcium silicate hydrate which provides strength. The ratio by mass of water to cement is an important parameter in the formulation, with the strength increasing with the decreasing water to cement ratio. However, decrease in water content also results in a stiffer mix, leading to reduced workability. Chemical admixtures such as superplasticizers (or water reducers) are often added to concrete to increase the workability of concrete without sacrificing strength. These dispersants work by dispersing the flocs of cement particles, and releasing the water trapped between the particles that would otherwise not be available for hydration. The aggregates occupy 60% - 75% of the concrete, and are an important component in concrete. Choice of aggregates and its gradation gives concrete its volumetric stability and has a large impact on its workability and strength characteristics. Air is also an integral part of the concrete formulation. It is important in freeze thaw conditions where repeated freezing and thawing cycles of the concrete gives rise to cracking and may account for 5% 8% of the total volume of concrete. However, excess of air leads to reduced strength. In cold regions, concretes are typically formulated with chemical admixtures such as the air entrainers. In developed countries, most of the concrete today is formulated with admixtures. These are chemicals that are added to concrete in very small quantities, typically less than 1% by mass to impart various characteristics to concrete such as color, resistance to shrinkage, retardation or acceleration of the setting time to change the workability range, corrosion inhibition etc. Today, concrete is a high tech material, precisely formulated for diverse applications ranging from large scale infra-structure such as dams and roadways to commercial high rise buildings and residential houses.