Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a wood-based material called “Nanowood” that outperforms almost all other heat insulators and costs about $7 a metre to manufacture.
“Nanowood” is created by stripping away all the filler material in wood, leaving just the surviving nanofibres. This is achieved by exposing wood to sodium hydroxide, sodium sulphite and hydrogen peroxide, all inexpensive chemicals. This strips out the cell walls, leaving the wood’s natural, parallel fibres, which create the high-performance insulation. A square metre would cost about $7 to make.
Because is is made from wood – a renewable resource – Nanowood is environmentally sustainable too. Nanowood is also incredibly strong, withstanding loads of 13 Megapascals – equivalent to almost 2000 pounds per square inch. That’s about thirty times as strong as styrofoam.
Researchers say the material can be made in virtually any size or shape already obtainable with wood. It could be used to insulate entire buildings, tiny computing components, or engines in airplanes, spaceships and cars. It is also hoped Nanowood could eventually replace non eco-friendly materials such as styrofoam, currently used in billions on disposable plastic cups.
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Journal reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3724