It is possible to produce wood even harder than steel, and researchers in Maryland even hope to see us use it in our everyday lives.
While the climate issue is on everyone’s mind, scientists are working to replace polluting products like steel or plastic. Researchers at the University of Maryland have just made a discovery that could greatly help in this direction. Indeed, according to the study they have just published within the journal Questions they have succeeded in compressing the wood to the point that it becomes much harder than the natural element. Tested with basswood, this new compression technique has made it possible to build knives, but also nails that compete with steel products that we know in our everyday life.
Teng Li, co-author of the study, declares in his article “Surprisingly, our wooden knife is actually three times sharper than the typical stainless steel table knife”. While these results have yet to be tested on a larger scale, this discovery could allow products to be produced in wood rather than steel or plastic. A real blessing for the planet, the production of these two transformed elements being very polluting.
Empty wood to make it more solid
The technique used by Li’s teams is “quite simple” in the words of the researcher. Indeed, it derives all the advantages of cellulose, a substance naturally present in wood and which gives it its rigidity. But by extracting this cellulose and increasing its proportion in the wood, it is possible to create products with a level of hardness “Superior to almost all metals and alloys in the world”.
According to the study, the result of this manipulation would produce a wood 23 times more resistant than the original natural element. The next step for Li is to produce wooden nails. He explains that these deniers could be even more interesting than those in steel which are used today. This is because steel nails will rust with time and humidity, a problem that wood nails will never encounter. Once rid of the water they contain, they will be able to survive all times of the year without rotting.
Li also hopes that his product can play a role in our plastic consumption. This highly polluting, often single-sweating element could be replaced by the hardened wood of Li and his team in everyday life. Many applications are possible according to the researcher, who now hopes to be able to continue developing his product so as to market it in the coming years.