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Move Over Metal, Here Comes Super Wood

By Terp Staff

WoodFrom creating translucent window material to using it for solar desalination devices, UMD engineers continue to do surprising things with wood. 

In a recent exploit, published in February in Nature, researchers reveal a way to make wood as strong as steel but one-sixth the weight. It could become a structural competitor not just for steel, but titanium alloy and carbon fiber, says Lingbiang Hu, associate professor of materials science and engineering and leader of the research team.

Researchers extracted lignin, which makes wood both rigid and brown, and compressed the remaining material at 150° F. The result was wood 10 times harder to break, says Teng Li, co-leader of the team and Samuel P. Langley Professor of mechanical engineering. To test it, they fired bullet-like projectiles that blew right through everyday wood, but were stopped by its treated cousin.

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