A new densification process can make "super wood" that's 12 times stronger than natural wood(Credit: University of Maryland)
Researcher Liangbing Hu, from the University of Maryland, led a team of scientists that developed a two-step process to make the wood stronger. The team first boils samples of wood in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfate. That step partially removes lignin and hemicellulose from the wood. The next step takes that boiled wood and hot-presses it.
That step collapses the cell walls and forms highly-aligned cellulose nanofibers. The result of the two-step process is completely densified wood that is much stronger than naturally occurring wood. The team claims that the new wood treatment method made the wood 12 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher.
The team believes that the new treatment method makes wood a competitor to steel or titanium allows. The team says it’s also comparable in strength and toughness to carbon fiber while being much cheaper.
The super wood was so strong when the team fired projectiles at it, they were stopped halfway through the wood. The same untreated wood allowed the projectiles to pass completely through. Potential uses for the super wood include cars, airplanes, buildings and any other place where steel is used.