Techno Timber: Artificial Wood Resists Fire and Water
A new, lightweight synthetic wood has been created that is as strong as wood, but without its traditional vulnerability to fire and water, as reported by Shu-Hong Yu, a materials chemist at the University of Science and Technology of China, in Hefei, and the author of a study published in Science Advances. It’s made of polymer resin and chitosan, a sugar polymer derived from the shells of shrimp and crabs. Adding human-made or natural fibers to the mix could also help.
The new material does not require years to grow and repels water; samples soaked in water and a strong acid bath for 30 days scarcely weakened, while balsa wood lost two-thirds of its strength and 40 percent of its crush resistance. The new material is also difficult to ignite, and stopped burning when it was removed from the flame. Its porosity creates an air-trapping capacity that could make it suitable as an insulation for buildings, but eco-friendly alternatives to the polymer resins are needed to broaden interest in its utility.
This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.