Study Develops Technique for Creating Strong, ‘Moldable’ Wood Materials

Oct. 22, 2021 Science Cover
November 10, 2021

A new study published in Science details an innovative new process that breaks down the wood’s cell walls and allows the material to be reconstituted via a “water-shock” treatment. The study, led by a research team at the University of Maryland and which included YIBS Affiliated Faculty Member, Yuan Yao (Assistant Professor of Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Systems at YSE), started by breaking down the wood’s lignin component — the wood’s cell walls that give it strength. The broken fibers were then closed by evaporating water, then the wood was “re-swelled” in “a rapid water-shock process that selectively opens the vessels.” The resulting material has a wrinkled cell wall structure that allows the material to be molded into desired shapes as 3D-molded wood — with a constitution six times stronger than the original wood material and comparable to other lightweight materials, like aluminum alloys. The strong mechanical property, the research team says, could “widen wood’s potential as a structural material, with lower environmental impact for buildings and transportation applications.” To learn more, please click here for an article published by the Yale School of the Environment.

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