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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ferrocement, also referred to as ferro concrete or reinforced concrete, a mixture of Portland cement and sand applied over layers of woven or expanded steel mesh and closely spaced small-diameter steel rods rebar. It can be used to form relatively thin, compound-curved sheets of concrete ideal for such applications as hulls for boats, shell roofs, and water tanks. It has a wide range of other uses including sculpture and prefabricated building components. The term "ferrocement" has been applied by extension to other composite materials, including some containing no cement and no ferrous material.

The original inventor of the material, Frenchman Joseph Monier, dubbed it "ciment armé," but after another French inventor, Joseph-Louis Lambot, constructed a small ferrocement boat and exhibited the vessel at the Exposition Universelle in 1855, the name "ferciment" (in accordance with Lambot's 1855 patent) stuck instead. The patent was granted in Belgium and only applied to that country. At the time of Monier's first patent, July 1867, he planned to use his material to create urns, planters, and cisterns. These implements were traditionally made from ceramics, but large-scale, kiln-fired projects were expensive and prone to failure. In 1875, he expanded his patents to include bridges and designed his first steel-and-concrete bridge. The outer layer was sculpted to mimic rustic logs and timbers, thereby also ushering Faux Bois concrete into common practice.

Recent trends have "ferrocement" being referred to as ferro concrete or reinforced concrete to better describe the end product instead of its components. By understanding that aggregates mixed with Portland cement form concrete, but many things can be called cement, it is hoped this may avoid the confusion of many compounds or techniques that are not ferro concrete.

Ferro concrete has relatively good strength and resistance to impact. When used in house construction in developing countries, it can provide better resistance to fire, earthquake, and corrosion than traditional materials, such as wood, adobe and stone masonry. It has been popular in developed countries for yacht building because the technique can be learned relatively quickly, allowing people to cut costs by supplying their own labor. In the 1930s through 1950's, it became popular in the United States as a construction and sculpting method for novelty architecture, examples of which created "dinosaurs in the desert".

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