A team of researchers from Sweden develops a biomaterial they called "super wood" which they believed is stronger than spider silk or any known artificial and natural biomaterial.
Natural spider silk is believed to be the strongest biomaterial and had in fact been subjected to numerous experiments aiming to mimic its capacity.
Researchers from Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, however, claims that their newly created material is eight times rigid than the natural spider silk fibers. The strength of the material they call super wood also beat the potency of metals, alloys, ceramics, and even E-glass fibers.
The super wood could be helpful for various medical applications because it is also compatible with the human body, the researchers say. The material could also be utilized for the making of cars, planes, and furniture.
Even with its numerous potential industrial uses, the super wood would remain harmless for the environment because of its biodegradability.
The Challenge Of Nanotech
Daniel Söderberg, corresponding author of the study, explains that one of the hurdles in working on nanotech materials is how to maximize the essential compositions that exist on the nanoscale.
To give context, nanotech is the manipulation of matter on the minutest scale whether it is on atomic, molecular, and supramolecular level. Nanoscale is usually measured through nanometer, which, by definition, is 1-billionth of a meter.
Nature, or in this case the trees, has no problem with utilizing its smallest particles or its cellulose nanofibre to produce wood from water and carbon dioxide through the process called biosynthesis. As the tree grows, it arranges its nanocellulose in a controlled and well-ordered manner.
The Making Of "Super wood"
To produce the material, the researchers worked on the cellulose nanofiber or CNF, the essential particle composition of wood and other plants. Specifically, the scientists mimic the process by which trees arrange its cellulose nanofibers into nearly perfect macroscale arrangements.
They were able to recreate the process of arrangement through applying how physics controls the structuring of components, or in this case the structuring of CNF. They engineered the particle size, their interactions, the particles' alignment, diffusion, network formation, and assembly, Söderberg elaborates in their study published in the journal of American Chemical Society.
"The bio-based nanocellulose fibers fabricated here are eight times stiffer and have strengths higher than natural dragline spider silk fibers, generally considered to be the strongest bio-based material," Söderberg reiterates.
The next step for the team is to find a way on how to speed up the fabrication process. Specifically, they would like to find out how they could hasten the making of the fibers and accelerate the process of drying them.