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Research on material characteristics and building techniques of the ancient Cham builders

The first year of project implementation (2002) was devoted mostly on the research on building materials, particularly on the compatibility between the original building materials and new materials, to ascertain the appropriate techniques of consolidation and restoration of the ancient monuments. Another focus area was the chemical-physical analysis of the organic resin used to bind bricks together in the construction of Cham monuments.

On the onset, the Department of Structural Engineering of the Polytechnic of Milan and the Institute of Conservation and Restoration of Monuments of Hanoi, Viet Nam signed a Scientific Agreement for the exchange of researchers. Under the Agreement, Architect Dang Khanh Ngoc, a senior architect of the Hanoi Institute, and Dr. Doan Hong Minh, a chemist of the same Institute, went to the Polytechnic University of Milan to participate in the joint laboratory researches.

The joint researches yielded extremely significant results. Chemical analysis of the original binders yielded many organic components, which were found out to be similar to the organic resin of the Dipterocarpacea Alata, a tree found in Central Vietnam, Central Laos and North Thailand. This organic resin is being used by locals in caulking wooden boats and in the production of colour pigments.

Mechanical and durability tests confirmed that this organic resin can be used as binder between bricks, particularly in areas with high rainfall, such as My Son. This organic resin was extensively used for external binding between bricks. Chemical-physical analysis found that for the internal masonry, a mortar consisting of shell-lime powder, Cham brick powder and water was used as binder.