Natural wood has been used for millennia as a structural material, but its mechanical performance is limited. Jianwei Song from the University of Maryland and colleagues have exhibited a simple way to turn natural wood into a new structural material with more than 10 times the strength, toughness and ballistic resistance, as well as improved stability. First, the team partially remove lignin and hemicellulose from the wood cells by boiling wood in a solution of NaOH and Na2SO3, and then use a hot press to collapse the cell walls. The technique works well for many woods and the final processed wood has a strength higher than most metals.

Further reading

J Song et al. 2018 Nature 554 224.