Last week a team of MIT scientists calling themselves Liquid Stone made a breakthrough (as it were) discovery about cement. The Romans used cement to build their remarkable aqueducts, and the stuff is still in use. In fact it’s one the most widely used building materials on the planet. It has a chemical name, calcium-silica-hydrate. But until last week, its molecular structure was unknown.
Scientists have been operating under the assumption that cement is a crystal, but the Liquid Stone group discovered this is not the case. It’s a hybrid structure in which the crystal form is interrupted by "messy areas" in which small voids allow water to attach.
By now, you are probably wondering what the composition of cement has to do with risk analysis. The link is Monte Carlo simulation, Liquid Stone used Monte Carlo software harnessed together with an atomistic modeling program to test various scenarios for how water attaches to the cement molecule in the messy areas.
Why is this discovery important? Because the manufacture of cement is accounts for about 5 percent of worldwide carbon emissions. The new knowledge of the composition of cement will enable engineers to tinker with the manufacture of cement to reduce these emissions. Now that Liquid Stone has what it calls the DNA of cement, they can progress to genetic engineering of the messy areas, and predictive statistical analysis will allow them to test various product strategies for replacing various atoms in the cement molecule.
What I love about all this is that apparently, Liquid Stone isn’t using risk analysis to get the messy areas better organized,the purpose of it is to figure out how to fit new stuff into the mess.