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Article Title: Stronger Than Steel, Able to Stop a Speeding Bullet—It’s Super Wood!


Article Summary

This article focuses on how far science has reached as scientists have discovered the ways to make all kinds of wood which is abundant in our environment to be stronger than steel , transparent like glass and even bullet proof at extremely low costs.

The author starts with how some varieties of wood like oak and maple have been known for their strengths but now scientists have discovered a simple and inexpensive new process that can transform any type of wood into a material stronger than steel ;even some high-tech titanium alloys and could even be used to make bullet-resistant armour plates. Researchers had been trying to do this by densifying wood since long but it used to weaken and spring back toward its original size and shape, especially in humid conditions.

Now professor Hu and his colleges have devised a 2 step process to strengthen wood. Firstly they boil wood in a solution which is similar to the first step of the chemical treatment used in creating wood pulp to make paper. This partially removes lignin and hemicellulose (natural polymers that help stiffen a plant’s cell walls) but leaves wood’s cellulose intact. Then in the second step they compress the treated wood till its cell wall collapses. Later it’s gently heated to facilitate chemical bond formation thus leading to optimising its strength. The results of this experiment were impressive. This wood could me moulded into any shape, its resistance increased and it also became moisture resistant. A five-layer, plywood-like sandwich of this inexpensive densified wood stopped simulated bullets fired into the material, although not protect as well as Kevlar sheet armour but is only 5% of its cost.

The author further states that professor ping lieu believes that densified wood has another leg up on carbon-fibre composites as It does not require expensive adhesives that also can make components difficult to assemble if not impossible, to recycle. One of the obstacles to the widespread use of densified wood will be engineers’ ability to scale up and accelerate the process but professor Hu counters it by stating that there are no practical reasons the process could not be sped up or used to make larger components. Scientists Lars Berglund has come up with a way to make windowpanes of wood. The first step in that process (as in Hu’s) is to remove lignin, a substance that not only stiffens wood but also creates its brownish colour. And infused the lignin-free wood with a polymer called methyl methacrylate (MMA). Because MMA’s index of refraction (a measure of how much it bends light) matches that of the lignin-free wood, rays of light pass right through the MMA-infused composite instead of getting bounced around inside empty cells thus rendering the material remarkably clear.

The author concludes that with the researches done by scientists like Hu and Lars might make it possible to live in a home-made almost completely from one of Earth’s most abundant and versatile building materials rather than steel or plastic which harm the environment.

Article Link: Click here to read the full article


Words to Learn from this article:

Ubiquitous: present, appearing, or found everywhere

Armor: the metal coverings formerly worn to protect the body in battle

Obstacle: a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress

Stiff: not easily bent or changed in shape; rigid

Render: provide or give (a service, help, etc.)


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