Oak and Maple are known for their strength, but scientists at the University of Maryland are reporting that “a simple and inexpensive new process can transform any type of wood into a material stronger than steel, and even some high-tech titanium alloys.” Super Wood?
Densifying, the work of materials scientist, Liangbing Hu, and fellow researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, is a simple, two-step process that begins with “boiling wood in a solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and sodium sulfite (Na2SO3), a chemical treatment similar to the first step in creating the wood pulp used to make paper,” then “compressing the treated wood until its cell walls collapse, and then maintaining that compression as it is gently heated … greatly strengthening the material.”
What’s the result? The compressed wood is:
- “moisture-resistant: In lab tests, compressed samples exposed to extreme humidity for more than five days swelled less than 10 percent—and in subsequent tests, a simple coat of paint eliminated that swelling entirely.
- three times as dense as the untreated substance; its resistance to being ripped apart is increased more than 10-fold; it also can become about 50 times more resistant to compression and almost 20 times as stiff.
- substantially harder, more scratch-resistant, more impact-resistant, and can be molded into almost any shape.”
Sounds like Super Wood! And what makes it really exciting is that the source material is abundant, low-cost, and literally growing on trees. The possibilities are endless!
Information Source: Scientific American (www.scientificamerican.com)