New Process can make Wood as Strong as Steel

Researchers have discovered an inexpensive way to make wood 10 times stronger and tougher, which could be used in cars, airplanes and buildings. 

New type of super wood will be stronger and tougher as compared to the normal wood. This discovery is expected to replace steel and other materials, as it is natural and inexpensive “This new way to treat wood makes it 12 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher,” said Liangbing Hu from University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) in the US.

The process includes treating natural wood with special chemical, followed by a heated compression process. The resulting chemical bonds make the wood strong enough as steel. The strengthening is achieved by large numbers of hydrogen atoms bonding to nanofibres of cellulose, which are already present in natural structure of wood. “This could be a competitor to steel or even titanium alloys, it is so strong and durable. It’s also comparable to carbon fiber, but much less expensive,” said Hu, who led the research published in the journal Nature. This kind of wood could be used in cars, airplanes, buildings – any application where steel is used, researchers said.

The team also measured the mechanical properties of dense. The new wood was examined by shooting bullet-like projectiles at natural wood and newly developed wood. The projectile blew straight through the natural wood and the fully treated wood stopped the projectile partway through. “It is as strong as steel, but six times lighter. It takes 10 times more energy to fracture than natural wood. It can even be bent and molded at the beginning of the process,” said Li.  “Soft woods like pine or balsa, which grow fast and are more environmentally friendly, could replace slower-growing but denser woods like teak in furniture or buildings,” Hu said.

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