- Super wood that is as robust as steel and six times lighter could be a renewable construction material for the future, according to scientists
- Researchers put the material through its paces in ballistic tests and found that a laminated version could even stop a projectile in its tracks
Scientists have been working for decades — squeezing wood, cooling and passing it through rollers, treating it with ammonia or steam — all in the name of creating a strong, tough material made from a relatively renewable resource.
Now researchers have revealed that they have succeeded in creating a wood stronger than steel or other titanium alloys. The new compound could even stop gun shots.
This wood does not come from a new variety of trees, but rather from chemical process developed by a team of researchers at the University of Maryland.
Key to the new wood’s superpowers is a special chemical treatment followed by a heated compression process. The resulting chemical bonds make the wood strong enough to one day be used in buildings and vehicles.
“This new way to treat wood makes it 12 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher,” says senior researcher Liangbing Hu, from the University of Maryland via Eureka Alert.
“This could be a competitor to steel or even titanium alloys, it is so strong and durable. It’s also comparable to carbon fibre, but much less expensive.”
“It is both strong and tough, which is a combination not usually found in nature,” adds another of the team, Teng Li from the University of Maryland.
“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.”
A company hopes to market the technology, and see a see a future of vehicles, airplanes, shipping containers, flooring, armor and more built with boiled, treated and compressed wood that is stronger than steel.