In the 19th century, Jules Verne described how a common, cheap and readily available material, with non-standard processing, becomes a profitable alternative to expensive alloys and compositions. In the 21st century, at the University of Maryland, they created one of the prototypes of such a wonderful material - "super-wood". It is stronger than steel alloys, and it costs almost like sawdust.
It is not the first time for Dr. Liangbing Hu's team to create something unusual out of wood. Over the past few years, they have invented transparent wood, sodium ion wood batteries, and wood water filters. Now they have developed a technology for super-strong compaction of wood, which is easy to implement in production.
In the first stage, the wood is boiled in a mixture of sulfide and sodium hydroxide to remove soft hemicellulose and lignin. The boiled billet is placed under a powerful press, the pressure of which destroys the cell walls and compacts the wood structure to the state of a tightly compressed mass of nanometer-thick fibers. In comparison with the original material, it is ten times denser, and its strength increases tenfold.
In one experiment, super-wood partially stopped a burst from a machine gun, which crushed a regular tree into chips. If you give the pliable mass the desired shape before pressing, you can immediately get almost finished parts - this further reduces the cost of the process. But the most interesting thing is that with this approach, the original type of wood loses its meaning and you can use the cheapest, fastest growing varieties instead of expensive and rare ones.