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Scientists at the University of Maryland have made fortified wood using a process that makes it twelve times stronger, producing a natural substance more durable than many titanium alloys and capable of stopping high-speed projectiles. Liangbing Hu, the researcher stated “This could be a competitor to steel or even titanium alloys, it is so strong and durable. It is also comparable to carbon fiber, but much less expensive. This new way to treat wood makes it 12 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher.” It was made by removing most of the Lignin and all of the hemicellulose from pieces of wood and pressing it to a fifth of its original thickness it also increased the density threefold.

The team of researchers boiled different varieties of wood in a solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite for seven hours. This process removes compounds that surround the cellulose in the wood, creating additional porous space. Researchers then pressed the now-porous block at one hundred degrees Celsius for an entire day. This reduced the wood to one-fifth the original thickness and increased its density threefold.

A fire-retardant structural material can be made by chemically softening and compressing wood to remove spaces between cell walls. When burnt, the resulting material develops an exterior layer of char which preserves the internal strength.

We are well aware of the threat to our forests from pine beetles that have decimated our forests and remain a continuing concern. The combustible threat is left behind, so to the greatest extent possible we will strive to utilize this waste

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