Scientists have invented “super wood” devised to make the traditional wood 12 times stronger. With its strength, the new invention can potentially replace steel and serve as a lighter, cheaper and more renewable alternative.
The inventors say the “super wood” made of robust material can also stop bullets, and it can also be used in cars, airplanes, buildings and even serve as body armor.
Lead researcher Liangbing Hu and his University of Maryland team already had their creation tested in the lab. Their research was also recently published in Nature.
Scientists have been trying to enhance the strength of wood for a long time. This breakthrough is being welcomed with excitement since it can be truly beneficial to the world given that wood is abundant and relatively cheap.
The researchers ran an experiment that involved firing bullet-like projectiles at the material alongside regular wood. While the researchers ripped through the regular wood, the “super wood” managed to block them halfway through.
The breakthrough uses a treatment that can be applied to all types of wood (including softer wood) to make them denser. The said treatment follows a simple, two-step method that starts with boiling the wood in a solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite, a chemical treatment similar to the first step in creating the wood pulp used to make paper. Such is meant to remove in parts some of the elements that stiffen a plant’s cell wall, while still leaving intact the overall structure.
The second step is as easy as it involves compressing the treated wood until its cell walls collapse, then maintaining that compression as it is gently heated. The pressure then kick-starts a chemical bond between the forms of atoms that comprise the wood cellular structure, greatly strengthening the material in the process.
The treatment can be applied to huge amounts of wood at once and also allows them to bend and mold the material into the desired shape at the start.