Better than sponge: Elastic Wood

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Image: large-sized elastic wood.

Scientists in the Bing Nano Group at the University of Maryland (UMD) have created a new material – elastic wood – made from balsa wood, but it bounces like rubber. The team cooked pieces of dry, natural wood in a mixture solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite at 100 ℃ for as much as seven hours, depending on the thickness of the piece, and then freeze-dried the material afterwords. This process breaks down the lignin and hemicellulose – materials naturally present in wood that give it its rigidity and strength – making the cell walls of the wood much thinner, less dense. The processed wood also decreased in weight by roughly 25%, resulting in wood that can not only compress and retake its original shape, but bounces like a rubber ball!

"Elastic wood may function as effective biomimetic scaffolds for nanofluidic systems, sensors, oriented tissue engineering, water purification, human (ion)−machine (electron) interfaces, and beyond," according to the study.

To ready the study in its entirety, follow this link to ACS Nano10.1021/acsnano.0c04298

Related media:

Chemistry in Pictures: Elastic Wood, C&EN, Sept. 2020

Published October 5, 2020