Researchers have made 25-ton boulders that can move by hand, giving more information to ancient engineering


What were gigantic old structures like Stonehenge, or the towering heads of Moai on Easter Island, set in a time when cranes and trucks were still hundreds of years away? Researchers at MIT gave more credit to theories that ancient engineers were masters in balance and leverage with a new experiment that produced giant concrete structures weighing about 25 tonnes that can still be handled manually.

Matter Design (which was co-founded by Brandon Clifford, who is also an assistant professor at MIT) worked with CEMEX, a company specializing in building materials, to design a series of oversized concrete monoliths that could be assembled as building blocks. building giants. in a larger functional structure.

But despite weighing many tons per piece and being durable enough to survive hundreds of years, concrete blocks feature unique make-up and shapes that make them relatively easy to move, even by just one person.

There are a few different design approaches at work here. The blocks, which are also known as massive masonry units – or MMUs for short – are made of concrete with varying densities to allow precise control over where the object's center of gravity ends, adding stability and balance. And although each giant block looks like a random bubble, they are designed with strategically positioned bevels, rounded edges, pivot points, lugs, and interlocking capabilities.

The resulting structures are still too heavy for a human to lift, but can be balanced, rotated, tilted, walked and even rolled from place to place, with remarkable ease and precision.

So, yes, the idea that the 82-ton Moai statues were rocked and crossed an island to their final resting places is not implausible. But this experiment does more than just prove a hypothesis. Given the advances in 3D printing, especially at larger scales, this approach could be used to design and build permanent and durable structures in places where a truck or an imposing crane would be impossible or too prohibitive to use.

In places where flooding is a threat or water levels are already rising, concrete walls can be easily assembled by local residents. Heavy and impenetrable barricades can be quickly maneuvered to a place where threats are imminent and there is no time to build a more elaborate structure. One day you can even set up your new home as a giant set of Lego concrete. Just throw a rug or two and those concrete walls will not look so cold.

[Matter Design via designboom]


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