Difference Between Concrete & Cement

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

The terms 'concrete' and 'cement' are often used interchangeably, but incorrectly so! This lesson clearly delineates the difference between the two, and explains how each is made.

Confusing Terms

Have you ever seen a cement truck on the road? You know, it's that vehicle with a very large rotating drum? Actually, you haven't. That's because those trucks are technically not cement trucks at all. They're concrete mixing trucks. That's right, concrete, not cement! There is a difference, even though these terms are often used interchangeably.

What Is Cement?

Cement is a type of binding agent that is just one ingredient of concrete. Cement is made from a combination of ingredients that contain calcium and/or silica (silicon dioxide). This includes the likes of limestone, shells, and clay. Other ingredients that can be found in cement include iron and aluminum.

The ingredients that make the cement are mixed together and placed into a kiln. The kiln uses a temperature between 2,700-3,000 Fahrenheit in order to 'cook' the ingredients. This heat helps to form new chemical compounds, such as tricalcium silicate. Once cooked, everything is ground together to produce a finely powdered substance we call cement.

When this powder is mixed with water, it creates a paste that acts as an adhesive. In other words, cement is a great binding agent. However, it isn't very durable on its own and is prone to cracking. This is why pure cement is rarely used on its own for anything at all.

Just for your reference, the most common type of cement nowadays is called Portland cement. This is not a brand name: it's not like saying Armani jeans. Portland cement is a general name, like stainless steel.

What Is Concrete?

Cement makes up about 10-15 percent of concrete. Concrete is a combination of aggregates and paste. The paste is the mixture of water combined with cement you just learned about. The aggregates are things like crushed stone, gravel, or sand. Think of cement as the flour in an oatmeal-raisin cookie. The flour helps bind everything together, but the cookie is much more than just the flour!

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