Image credit – Hua Xie / University of Maryland

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Despite the fact that it is well-known that styrofoam will take centuries before it eventually breaks down and decomposes, many still use the material even today. However the good news is that thanks to efforts by scientists at the University of Maryland in College Park, they have come up with a more environmentally-friendly alternative called “nanowood”.

Nanowood is expected to be a more environmentally-friendly alternative to styrofoam in cases where heat insulation is needed. This can be used when building homes where nanowood can be used in place of other insulating materials, which can sometimes be expensive to produce in both monetary and energy costs.

So what is nanowood? To create nanowood, the scientists took wood and stripped away some of its natural components, such as lignin which is what makes wood brown and rigid, and hemicellulose. The end result is a piece of wood that is white and makes it less prone at conducting heat due to the fact that stripping away those components leaves gaps in the wood, which makes it harder for heat to travel through them.

Nanowood is also said to be lighter than some of its alternatives now, but at the same time stronger with the ability to withstand pressures of 13 megapascals. That translates to about it being 30 times higher than the strongest commercially-used thermal insulation materials available today.

According to Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist and engineer at the University, he envisions a future where nanowood could be potentially be used to build skyscrapers, cars, and be used to protect heat-sensitive electronics for use on Earth or even in space.

Filed in General >Green. Read more about Science and _cold.

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