Courtesy University of Maryland

Courtesy University of Maryland

Engineers at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering have discovered a process that can make wood stronger than steel or titanium alloys. The method begins by removing the wood’s lignin—the part gives it color and rigidity—via boiling the material in an aqueous mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfate. The remaining wood panel is then compressed at 150 F in order to collapse the cell wall and rid the material of weak spots. This process also allows for tight hydrogen bonds to be formed, furthering strengthening the wood. “This kind of wood could be used in cars, airplanes, buildings—any application where steel is used,” said Liangbing Hu, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, and a member of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute, in a press release. [University of Maryland]