It’s a tree… It’s steel – No, it’s super wood!
A wood that can rival the strength of steel has been invented, and it is all thanks to a team of researchers at the University of Maryland in the U.S. They have successfully created a wood type called “super wood” since it is tougher than most titanium alloys.
The study that was published in Nature revealed that it is possible to turn soft wood into heavy-duty types that can replace steel in most any application. In the long run, this innovation can possibly be the cheaper, lighter, and natural alternative for metal and steel materials.
The research team led by Liangbing Hu, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, stated that they applied a new wood treatment process to significantly increase the density of the wood, and thus charging up its strength to 10 times stronger than common wood.
They believe that their new treatment method will make the wood stronger like steel. In the press release, the scientists behind the breakthrough disclosed that the whole process only takes two steps to complete.
The Process Of Making The ‘Super Wood’
First, they partially removed the glue between the wood cells called lignin. Hemicellulose, which boosts the packing density of the cell wall, is also eradicated from the natural wood. The removal of these substances is done through a boiling process in a solution of sodium sulfite and sodium hydroxide.
Hot-pressing follows and the cell walls are expected to have already completely collapsed by this time. The complete densification of the natural wood with highly aligned cellulose nanofibres also takes place at this stage.
— Popular Mechanics (@PopMech) February 8, 2018
The finished product is a well-made super wood that is hard, sturdy, and strong but much lighter compared to metals. And this is not all, the treated wood is also remarkably dense, scratch-resistant, protects against moisture, and resistant to compression.
“This new way to treat wood makes it 12 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher,” Hu said.
Teng Li, co-leader in the research and the Samuel P. Langley Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, added that it is strong as steel but six times lighter.
The Test Of Strength
The research group further shared that they tested the density and strength of the “super wood.” Some bullet-like projectiles were shot at natural wood and a treated one to compare the results.
The “super wood” (treated one) effectively stopped the bullets partway through while they blew straight through the untreated wood.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) February 7, 2018
The procedure in making “super wood” is very simple and inexpensive. Plus, since wood comes from trees, it can be easily sourced. Truly, this invention is a promising alternative for steel, titanium alloy, and other forms of certain metals.