March 20, 2018
Finding stronger materials with which to develop buildings seems like a never-ending quest. Engineers at the University of Maryland in College Park recently added to the list, by finding a way to make a type of super wood that is tougher and stronger than titanium alloy. Liangbing Hu, a professor at the university and leader of the research team, indicated the new wood could be a viable competitor to steel, and could be used “in cars, airplanes, buildings – any application where steel is used.”
The process removes lignin, the part of wood that makes it rigid and brown. The wood is compressed under mild heat, which causes cellulose fibers to become tightly packed, while crushing defects. The scientists found that the wood’s fibers are pressed together tightly enough to form strong hydrogen bonds, while making the wood itself five times thinner than its original size.
Even better is that the process means softer woods, such as pine or balsa, are used. The softer woods, “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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