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Inspiration from Mother Nature leads to improved wood

Date:
October 31, 2012
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Using the legendary properties of heartwood from the black locust tree as their inspiration, scientists have discovered a way to improve the performance of softwoods widely used in construction. The method involves addition of similar kinds of flavonoid compounds that boost the health of humans.
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Inspired by Mother Nature, researchers hope to make wood an even better building material.
Credit: © PiLensPhoto / Fotolia

Using the legendary properties of heartwood from the black locust tree as their inspiration, scientists have discovered a way to improve the performance of softwoods widely used in construction. The method, reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, involves addition of similar kinds of flavonoid compounds that boost the health of humans.

Ingo Burgert and colleagues explain that wood's position as a mainstay building material over the centuries results from a combination of desirable factors, including surprising strength for a material so light in weight. Wood is renewable and sustainable, making it even more attractive in the 21st century. Wood, however, has a major drawback that limits its use: It collects moisture easily -- warping, bending, twisting and rotting in ways that can undermine wooden structures. Some trees, like the black locust, deposit substances termed flavonoids into their less durable "sapwood." It changes sapwood into darker "heartwood" that reduces water collection and resists rot. The scientists used this process as an inspiration for trying an improved softwood that is more stable than natural wood.

They describe a process that incorporates flavonoids into the walls of the cells of spruce wood, a common building material for making houses and other products. The hydrophobic flavonoids are embedded in the more hydrophilic cell wall environment, meaning that the cell walls take in less water. Burgert and coworkers report that the treated wood was harder than untreated wood and more resistant to the effects of water, holding its shape better through changing humidity.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Max Planck Society, Germany, as well as the Bundesamt für Umweltschutz and Lignum, Switzerland.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mahmut A. Ermeydan, Etienne Cabane, Admir Masic, Joachim Koetz, Ingo Burgert. Flavonoid Insertion into Cell Walls Improves Wood Properties. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2012; 121031100103002 DOI: 10.1021/am301266k

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American Chemical Society. "Inspiration from Mother Nature leads to improved wood." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121031125045.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2012, October 31). Inspiration from Mother Nature leads to improved wood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121031125045.htm
American Chemical Society. "Inspiration from Mother Nature leads to improved wood." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121031125045.htm (accessed August 1, 2015).

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