Wood catches fire. There’s nothing that can change that fact but what about a substance like wood that limits that vulnerability? Scientists have created artificial wood which is both water and fire-resistant. The artificial material is said to be as crush-resistant as real wood with smaller channels and pores that further improves the strength of this material.
Scientists were able to do this by using a solution of polymer resin with some chitosan. It’s a sugar polymer that’s taken from the shells of crabs and shrimp. The solution is freeze-dried which yields a structure that has tiny pores and channels that the chitosan supports. The resin is then heated up to 200 degrees Celsius to cure it and forge strong chemical bonds.
Shu-Hong Yu, a materials chemist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, says that the material is as crush-resistant as wood. He adds that higher curing temperatures increases bonding within the resin and increases the strength more. It can be improved even further by adding human-made or natural fibers to the process.
One of the biggest advantages of this material is that it doesn’t take years to grow like wood and you don’t have to cut down trees for it. The material is fire-resistant and stops burning when removed from the flame. It’s likely that this material could eventually be used for packaging but whether it will ever truly replace wood remains to be seen.
Filed in scientificamerican.. Source: