The terms aggregate, cement, and concrete have very similar meanings in the construction industry. All three refer to various combinations of water, sand, gravel or crushed rock, and cement. However, there are some key differences in these materials when they are used for specific purposes.
What is an Aggregate?
The definition of “Aggregate” is very broad. Anything that joins together to form a collective whole can be considered an aggregate. It greatly depends on the context in which it is used.
On roadways, aggregates come in small rocks or gravel mixed with asphalt to create permanent solid roadbeds.
More broadly, however, aggregates are all raw materials broken into smaller pieces through some energy input.
This energy could come from heavy equipment fitted with steel belts that crush rock by moving back-and-forth along with a material pile until the pieces are small enough for use in cement or wind erosion over millions of years, making fine soil particles available for coastal regions to receive sediment and build up over time.
On a larger scale, all matter in the universe is aggregated through gravity. The sun draws the planets towards it so that they orbit around it as one collective body.
What is Cement?
Cement is defined as “a hydraulic binder consisting of a mixture of calcined limestone or chalk with clay and shale.” This definition says nothing about what cement does or why it is essential. Instead, it tells us about its components using technical terms not necessary for laymen to understand without context.
In short, “cement” is just another word for glue. However, different types of cement have different properties depending on their intended use. For example, Portland cement can be grey, white, or red, depending on the addition of silica.
It is hard and strong but also highly porous so that water can penetrate it from both sides. This causes it to expand when wet resulting in cracking when drying.
Calcium sulfate cement is another type of “cement” used for fireproofing wood because it can be made into plaster-like mixtures. These are just two examples out of hundreds of possible types of cement to demonstrate how much room there is for variation within this term.
What is Concrete?
Concrete refers to a workable paste composed of aggregate (small rocks), sand, crushed stone or gravel, portland cement, and water in specific proportions relative to one another. The paste functions as an adhesive that binds the aggregate together to create a strong solid.
Concrete is made by mixing cement with water and aggregates (sand, gravel, crushed stone). It has shaped the world around us for thousands of years. Throughout history, there have been many innovations in making concrete which allowed more uses.
For example, during ancient Rome’s reign, it was common to build over swampy grounds that were too soft to support an infrastructure using stone materials. By adding volcanic ash into their mixture of ingredients, they created hydraulic concrete that cures even underwater!
After curing (and sometimes hardening through autoclaving), the new material is impenetrable by freezing or flooding waters or anything else nature throws it once properly mixed. This means that waterways can be redirected to travel through man-made tunnels underneath cities or railways.
The list of examples goes on and on, but the point here is that concrete is not just another generic term. It has specific purposes related to its use in construction and certain traits depending on what materials were added into the mixture.
Each type has an intended use, making it valuable to keep track of which one was used for a given application. Knowing these facts will help you understand how infrastructure works and matters even more than you thought possible before making this realization!