Portland cement is used around the world as an ingredient in building materials such as concrete, mortar, stucco, and non-specialty grout. Originating from limestone and clay, Portland cement is the most commonly utilized variety of cement today. Variations of Portland cement include ordinary Portland cement, which is gray, and white Portland cement. The process of creating Portland cement involves heating limestone and clay in a kiln to form a coarse material known as clinker. From there, the clinker is ground to a fine powder before adding 2-3% of gypsum.
The inventor of Portland cement, Joseph Aspdin, of England, patented the basic process back in the 1820s, naming it for the resemblance of the cement when set to portland stone, a limestone originating on the Isle of Portland.
Portland cement remains a low-cost construction material due to the ready availability of limestone and other naturally occurring materials it takes to make it. Concrete produced from Portland cement is one of the world’s most versatile construction materials. When water is mixed with Portland cement, the product sets in a few hours, and hardens over a period of weeks.
Due to its alkaline nature, Portland cement is caustic and can lead to severe burning of the skin after extended contact. Therefore, Portland cement should handled with care whether it is wet or dry. When inhaled, Portland cement can lead to irritation and even lung cancer in extreme cases. There are environmental concerns associated with Portland cement as well. However, these ecological effects primarily come from its manufacturing process and not from the material itself.
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