Super Wood

Organization: University of Maryland, College Park
Year: 2018

A team at the University of Maryland invented a top-down approach that directly transforms bulk natural wood into a structural material with exceptional mechanical properties. The densified wood—referred to as Super Wood— has a unique microstructure, in which the fully collapsed wood cell walls are tightly intertwined along their crosssection and densely packed along their length. This resulting Super Wood is stronger than steel but six times lighter, which can open up endless applications. It also requires significantly more energy to fracture than natural wood and can be bent and molded at the beginning of the process. To create Super Wood, natural wood is treated in a twostep process, which involves the partial removal of lignin and hemicellulose from the natural wood via a boiling process in an aqueous mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. This is followed by hotpressing, which leads to the total collapse of cell walls and the complete densification of the natural wood with highly aligned cellulose nanofibers.

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