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Biodegradable Fibers As Strong As Steel Made From Wood Cellulose

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the wood-is-the-new-steel dept.

Science 82

Zothecula writes "A team of researchers working at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology claim to have developed a way to make cellulose fibers stronger than steel on a strength-to-weight basis. In what is touted as a world first, the team from the institute's Wallenberg Wood Science Center claim that the new fiber could be used as a biodegradable replacement for many filament materials made today from imperishable substances such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal. And all this from a substance that requires only water, wood cellulose, and common table salt to create it. The full academic paper is available from Nature Communications."

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Is this a Carbon Fiber competitor? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209597)

Is this a Carbon Fiber competitor?

Re:Is this a Carbon Fiber competitor? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209613)

no. but you are a take it in the ass competitor for sure!

Re:Is this a Carbon Fiber competitor? (3, Interesting)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about 3 months ago | (#47211859)

Carbon fibers are five times stronger than steel and about a third the weight, so in a head to head competition, no way.

Still, it could compete with (say) steel if it's easier to work, cheaper, and less polluting.

Stronger than steel (4, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | about 3 months ago | (#47209601)

Stronger than steel is cool and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean "all the same properties of steel". Durability, heat tolerance, reaction to moisture and a host of other things are likely to mean it's not a drop-in replacement for fibreglass/plastic/metal.

Re:Stronger than steel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209621)

Nobody asked you faggot. Take your attitude and shove it up your asshole. Peace on earth!

Re:Stronger than steel (4, Interesting)

abhi_beckert (785219) | about 3 months ago | (#47209623)

Stronger than steel is cool and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean "all the same properties of steel". Durability, heat tolerance, reaction to moisture and a host of other things are likely to mean it's not a drop-in replacement for fibreglass/plastic/metal.

Fibreglass is terrible at all of the things you just listed and we use it for all kinds of things. It just has to be coated with a thin protective layer.

Re:Stronger than steel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209671)

You obviously don't know what you are talking about. Your logic is fail, your conclusion can only be interpreted in a way that suggests you like it up the ass and want all the trees in the world to penetrate you deeply till the world in a barren desert covered in your ass rape juices. peace on earth.

Re:Stronger than steel (2)

SpzToid (869795) | about 3 months ago | (#47210025)

Good point. Also, actually using wood for construction, (instead of just burning it up), is a way to store carbon. In fact if you look at the diversion of resources to make plastic, steel, etc., vs. putting more effort into this wood-fiber technology, this could be a good method to help curb greenhouse gasses.

Re:Stronger than steel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209625)

Yeah, this shit is basically worthless if it rots when it gets wet.

Re:Stronger than steel (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47209761)

Yeah, this shit is basically worthless if it rots when it gets wet.

Is that why people have never used wood as a construction material?

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

h5inz (1284916) | about 3 months ago | (#47210183)

Yeah, this shit is basically worthless if it rots when it gets wet.

Is that why people have never used wood as a construction material?

What are you implying? Is it something that explains why people have never considered stone, concrete, steel, aluminium alloys or carbon fiber to be better construction materials than wood?

Re:Stronger than steel (4, Informative)

Megol (3135005) | about 3 months ago | (#47210429)

Most materials have advantages and disadvantages. Wood is an excellent material for many things and steel is a bad material for many things.
Unlike what many people believe carbon fiber (or other synthetic fibers like kevlar/aramid, dyneema, zylon) while stronger than steel are a bad material for many constructions as they often have a higher flexibility, higher sensitivity to things like UV radiation, abrasion etc. that have to be compensated for. This results in many products being worse than e.g. a steel construction but still being sold to the people that think it must be superior. Designing and using composites properly often is a very expensive process.

But again wood is an excellent material - it is flexible, strong (with natural fiber reinforcement), easy to form, renewable and reasonable priced. Even the above mentioned sensitivity of wet environments is easy to circumvent. There are a lot of natural wood which are naturally protected against water and other woods can easily be impregnated.

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47213781)

and other woods can easily be impregnated.

I've heard of tree-huggers, but that's ridiculous!

Re:Stronger than steel (0)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 3 months ago | (#47209649)

Wow, having read the links I cannot find any claim in them to the effect that the new material will be a drop-in replacement for those. Hysterical much?

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 3 months ago | (#47209667)

From the first link:
“Our research may lead to a new construction material that can be used anywhere where you have components based on glass fibers"

From the second link:
"The team from the institute's Wallenberg Wood Science Center claim that the new fiber could be used as a biodegradable replacement for many filament materials made today from imperishable substances such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal."

Literacy much?

Re:Stronger than steel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209715)

So much faggotry! Take it in the ass you HOMOSEXUAL!

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 3 months ago | (#47209873)

Neither of those claim it to be a drop-in replacement for all the properties of steel.
Of in fact for ANY property of steel.

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#47209999)

Neither of those claim it to be a drop-in replacement for all the properties of steel. Of in fact for ANY property of steel.

True, but they do dispute the claim in the original post:
"Stronger than steel is cool and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean "all the same properties of steel". Durability, heat tolerance, reaction to moisture and a host of other things are likely to mean it's not a drop-in replacement for fibreglass/plastic/metal."

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47210107)

They probably didn't mean a direct substitute. Just like when ballistic helmets stopped being manufactured from steel and started being manufactured from HDPE - it didn't mean that they merely replaced steel with HDPE while keeping the geometry (mainly thickness) identical.

Re:Stronger than steel (2)

sribe (304414) | about 3 months ago | (#47211547)

Also, "stronger than steel" by weight is nothing new at all. Glued laminated beams ("lambeams") are stronger than steel by weight, and were first used in the late 19th century.

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 3 months ago | (#47211585)

Stronger than steel is cool and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean "all the same properties of steel".

In fact, one of the important properties of steel is that it is not biodegradable. The last thing anybody wants is to have an office in the 54th floor of a building made out of material that is touted for how easily it degrades.

Re:Stronger than steel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47212237)

Stronger than steel is cool and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean "all the same properties of steel".

In fact, one of the important properties of steel is that it is not biodegradable. The last thing anybody wants is to have an office in the 54th floor of a building made out of material that is touted for how easily it degrades.

Which is fine since you don't typically use fiberglass as a structural component of skyscrapers. You do however use it on cars that need to be crushed and disposed of when they are discarded, latticework fencing, chair components, etc. The use case for this item is for cheap, consumer items that typically don't last, or have a need to last. Then, when it's discarded, instead of taking up valuable space for trash it can decompose.

Re:Stronger than steel (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 3 months ago | (#47213193)

Stronger than steel is cool and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean "all the same properties of steel". Durability, heat tolerance, reaction to moisture and a host of other things are likely to mean it's not a drop-in replacement for fiberglass/plastic/metal.

Don't forget Termite resistance. :-)

Re:Stronger than steel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47213567)

Stronger than steel

Just remind me who to kill when they start making blister packaging out of this stuff.

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

badkarmadayaccount (1346167) | about 3 months ago | (#47221423)

Stronger than steel is cool and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean "all the same properties of steel". Durability, heat tolerance, reaction to moisture and a host of other things are likely to mean it's not a drop-in replacement for fibreglass/plastic/metal.

snip Yeah, steel loves moisture, suuure...

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 3 months ago | (#47221507)

Love it or hate it, it still doesn't react to it the same way wood does.

Re:Stronger than steel (1)

badkarmadayaccount (1346167) | about 3 months ago | (#47296667)

True that, but I think a simple epoxy coat would work?

it's...wood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209615)

Wood made of wood! Holy carp! What will those eggheads think up next?

Re:it's...wood (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209645)

They may think to take you in the back room and rape your ass in the name of science. I am sure they will come up with a new invention that could revolutionize life as we know it. Go fuck yourself.

Re:it's...wood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209737)

This brand new material is destined for space. In 10 years time I'm going to be mining gold in the asteroid belt, having left earth on a space elevator made of this stuff. Peace on earth is within our reach.

Re:it's...wood (2)

pspahn (1175617) | about 3 months ago | (#47209945)

Peace on earth is within our reach.

... and the wars, I take it, are in the asteroid belt?

Re:it's...wood (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47210117)

Actually, wood would sort of imply lignine, wouldn't it? This seems more papery than woody, although even that would be a gross simplification.

Biodegradable? (0)

Torp (199297) | about 3 months ago | (#47209729)

How fast will it "biodegrade" while it's actually used to, say, sustain a bridge? :)

Re:Biodegradable? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#47209755)

When was the last time someone made a bridge out of fibreglass?

That's the kind of material its designed to replace.

My question would be how biodegradable is it when it's covered in epoxy?

Re:Biodegradable? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 3 months ago | (#47209839)

There are resin based replacements in development to solve that problem too.
It would often still need a thin waterproofing application so the product doesn't rot while in use. When the product is shredded for biodegradation that thin layer is only a small problem.

I was thinking about the fiberglass... (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 3 months ago | (#47209863)

I was thinking about the fiberglass, and realized it doesn't necessarily refer to fiber-reinforced resin sheets. Fiberglass insulation has very little in the way of other ingredients in it...

And cellulose has a long history as an insulation material (it has pluses and minuses), anything that would make it lighter on a volume basis would improve it's insulation properties.

Re:I was thinking about the fiberglass... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#47215921)

Fibreglass insulation is pretty easy to recycle though.

Re:Biodegradable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209885)

The bridge of a boat? There are lots.

Re:Biodegradable? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209767)

Quit thinking in the past, fag. We don't need bridges 'cause we gots drones and planes and planes that shoot drones out of yo ass!

Re:Biodegradable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209795)

How fast will it "biodegrade" while it's actually used to, say, sustain a bridge? :)

Like you, I hope they are not planning to use anything biodegradeable as a substitute for steel for structural materials. Packaging for non-durable goods would likely be its only acceptable use. We have more then enough self-destructing plastic out there on vehicles etc causing problems.

Re:Biodegradable? (1)

wherrera (235520) | about 3 months ago | (#47210191)

The first rain storm should do it.

Re:Biodegradable? (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 3 months ago | (#47211203)

This was my first reaction. This new material may not be suitable all on its own, but rather become an element in a composite structure - like carbon fiber and fiberglass. In that case, it probably won't be biodegradable at all, because it will be encased in epoxy, which is pretty much permanent.

The man of pulp (1)

future assassin (639396) | about 3 months ago | (#47209763)

Look, it's a bird, it's a plane, its PulpMan!!!!

Re:The man of pulp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209869)

Over there, it's Wooden Bat man!

Stronger than steel made from wood! (1)

statemachine (840641) | about 3 months ago | (#47209791)

Now that's an achievement.

Well, that's how I first read it anyway.

Re: Stronger than steel made from wood! (1)

skandalfo (623756) | about 3 months ago | (#47209897)

Then, of it's made from wood...

It's a witch!

Re: Stronger than steel made from wood! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47210867)

Burn it! ...which brings up an interesting thought. Are the results of this process flammable?

Re:Stronger than steel made from wood! (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about 3 months ago | (#47211965)

Actually:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Look down the list for stainless steel... then carry on down to 'balsa'.

Yup. Wood has a better strength to weigh ratio than stainless steel. (Only along the grain though but plywood fixes that, and you can put the strength in the direction you need it.)

Although they're not in the table, other woods are similar, but more dense.

Re:Stronger than steel made from wood! (3, Informative)

fnj (64210) | about 3 months ago | (#47213017)

"Stronger than steel" or "stronger than x", by either absolute measure or ratio of strength to weight, doesn't mean shit. There are a million factors.

1) What kind of steel? Tensile yield strength (MPa) is all over the place:
ASTM A36 structural steel: 250
API 5L X65: 448
AISI 4130, water quenched 855C (1570F), 480C (900F) temper: 951
Aermet 340: 2160
2800 maraging steel: 2617
Micro-Melt 10 Tough Treated Tool Steel (AISI A11): 5171

Usually when someone says "stronger than steel" they mean stronger than crappy A36 or the like. If you're going to build a fabric-covered fuselage, you use the 4130. If you've got a building or bridge to erect, you use something closer to A36. For a cutting bit, tool steel. It is brittle as hell but harder than any steel you can use structurally; takes and keeps a wicket edge when ground.

2) Do you care about anything besides tensile yield strength? Just say yes. It matters. Such properties as the following:
Elastic modules
Compressive strength
Hardness
Toughness
Elongation
Endurance limit / fatigue properties
Resistance to corrosion and other degradation

Many of these properties play off against each other. Want hard or tough? Pick one. They are inversely related. Want something that is mechanically workable? It better have decent elongation, which limits achievable strength. On the other hand, piano wire doesn't need to be very workable at all. It has fantastic strength.

3) What safety factor will you require? Depends on a number of factors, and one of these factors is material chosen. Balsa needs a much higher safety factor than steel or aluminum alloy. Its mechanical properties are much more variable, and it tends to have imperfections.

These are just some of the factors that make the simplified table you reference horse shit. Bottom line, if you are building a bridge or airplane to highly optimized requirements, suitable steel or aluminum alloy is going to give you a lot less weight for the same safety-factored strength as balsa - completely aside from temperature/humidity limits, flammability, and liability to rot.

Re:Stronger than steel made from wood! (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about 3 months ago | (#47229099)

I don't think you quite understand.

Wood is an excellent engineering material, it's widely used in construction, and can and has been very successfully used for ships, aircraft etc. During WWII, even when aluminium alloys were available, British designers used wood, to make very highly successful, fast, and very robust aircraft like the de Havilland Mosquito.

Yes, of course you have to consider multiple properties, but actually, wood is very good under lots of different properties, particularly compression, and wood in general and balsa structures in particular have *surreal* rigidity. See this table:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

so by weight, balsa is the most rigid material known, by a long, long way.

Steel is biodegradable, unfortunately. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209907)

It is the energy to make it that is the problem.

Re:Steel is biodegradable, unfortunately. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47210155)

More like the carbon, isn't it? But I suspect that in the long run (I don't know, tens of thousands of years?), the problem with steel will be that after we mine out all the highly concentrated ores, all that will remain will be widely dispersed rust from existing steel structures. Even with recycling, there will be always losses, and I'm not sure how feasible trying to concentrate iron from the environment would be, so we'd probably have to look for other sources. Let's hope well have the psyche [wikipedia.org] to do that. ;)

Re:Steel is biodegradable, unfortunately. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47210187)

About 1/3rd of earth's crust is iron. There will be ways to retrieve more when we need it.

Re: Steel is biodegradable, unfortunately. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47212525)

I'm still using that, so be careful what you take out from under my feet.

not bad, but needs additional answers. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 3 months ago | (#47210135)

Many man made materials are just as strong as steel, but the resilliency is the important part. steel can be wet, hot, dry, cold, and in many cases still be within an acceptable performance range for its intended use. particle board for example is often as strong as steel, but degradation under humidity makes it unsuitable for most applications.

Alchemy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47210219)

You can make steel from wood cellulose?

Re:Alchemy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47212301)

probably considering steel needs carbon.

This was on Gizmag yesterday (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47210365)

Like half of Slashdot's articles...

FTFY (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47210551)

Biodegradable Fibers, As Strong As Steel, Made From Wood Cellulose

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47212573)

I think the original is fine.

Makes sense. (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | about 3 months ago | (#47210647)

Now I know why trees can withstand tactical nukes in games, but my futuristic super armor can't handle a direct hit from a rocket.

Channeling Jules Verne (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47210893)

Probably time to re-read Jules Verne. His character Robur built the Albatross out of paper...

Do we need a replacement for steel? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 3 months ago | (#47210917)

Sure, if it's cheaper, great, but is the "imperishability" of steel really a problem? Iron is the most recycled material on the planet....

Re:Do we need a replacement for steel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47217099)

Iron is the most recycled material on the planet....

Gold beats iron handily for the title of "most-recycled". If you're restricting it to structural materials, iron has some pretty stiff competition from aluminum.

Fiberglass Boat Hull Dissolves ! (2)

fygment (444210) | about 3 months ago | (#47210997)

Not sure that the use case is very compelling. Usually things made strong, say fiber reinforced plastic, are meant to be durable. Furthermore, if the cellulose fibers don't degrade uniformly, you would end up with very unpredictable failure modes.

How biodegradable..? (1)

Ancil (622971) | about 3 months ago | (#47211077)

Many of the things built out of steel are things we don't want degrading any time soon.

"Fiberglass" (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | about 3 months ago | (#47211349)

Fiberglass is actually a composite made of epoxy (or other) resin, with glass fibers embedded in it for tensile strength.

Until you have a biodegradable epoxy to go with your biodegradable cellulose cloth, there isn't any point.

I don't think fiberglass itself is used for strength in other applications, but for its fire-retardant properties (insulation wool, glass cloth). Good luck with cellulose there.

Steel made from wood cellulose (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 3 months ago | (#47211529)

I suppose its possible to make steel from wood cellulose (and iron ore) but you're going to need more energy input.
Generally the carbon used to make steel comes from coal, so using a renewable source of carbon is betteer for the environment, but where do you get the extra energy?

Trees? Still? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 3 months ago | (#47211533)

When are we going to switch to hemp? After all, if you really want to be green, something that grows faster, producers longer stronger fibers, easier to harvest, less polluting to process, etc, etc... and we already use it in construction, awesome paper, and clothing.

The US has certainly done a disservice to the world with it's Reefer madness.

Re:Trees? Still? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47213875)

Shut up, hippie! You don't want our children to start smoking construction materials, do you? What happens if they get addicted to buildings? Roving gangs of marijuana-addicted hooligans, destroying our nation's infrastucture to get their "fix,' doing the terrorist's job for them! Do you want the terrorists to WIN?

Captcha: Erring. It's time to start erring, on the side of America!

Re:Trees? Still? (1)

dkman (863999) | about 3 months ago | (#47214447)

+1 damn it, where are my mod points?

The sails used by Columbus, the jeans created by Levi, and who knows what else used hemp materials. The parchment the Constitution was written on could have been created using hemp fibers (it wasn't, it was animal skin-based, but it could have been). Hemp fibers are stronger and longer than many other plants out there that the US is "allowed" to use in manufacturing. Even after a modified version of the plant that didn't get you high was created the laws banning it's use didn't go away.

It's that kind of artificial limitations holding us back that has this country in trouble right now. Stem cells anyone?

/rant

People have used banana fibers to create car parts. Today I heard that Ford and Heintz are working on using tomato fibers for car parts. It is my understanding (and I admit that I'm not an expert) that hemp would be a much better material.

Table salt (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about 3 months ago | (#47211661)

replacement for many filament materials made today from imperishable substances such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal. And all this from a substance that requires only water, wood cellulose, and common table salt to create it

I would hate to be the poor bastard in the factory whose job it is to stand there shaking the salt cellar all day.

technical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47211829)

How do they make steel from wood cellulose?

Punctuation, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47212163)

When I read the headline, my first thought was "They can make steel from wood cellulose?". Insert a comma or two, and you avoid the misunderstanding.

Space elevator strong? (1)

berchca (414155) | about 3 months ago | (#47212799)

The big question is: strong enough to tether the space elevator?

"Strength-to-Weight" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47213331)

The thing to note is how it's as strong on a "strength-to-weight basis", which imply it's not so much on a volume basis. Same thing with the claims of Aerogel and such (which has another problem in that they tend to ignore the gas inside the gel in calculations for some reason).

love the title -- we now have steel made from wood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47213869)

but is "steel made from wood" a good thing to measure our new product against -- doesn't sound very strong

If it's new then something must be wrong with it, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47217253)

says Slashdot.

What's wrong with a new way to turn wood waste into useable unique and new environmentally friendly products? Ask a group of unimaginative low level system admins and they will surely find a hundred reasons.

compression vs extension (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 3 months ago | (#47218959)

I recall wood structures work by compressing wood, while steel structures extends steels. Does that mean there are situations where this new fibers cannot replace steel? Or is it always possible to swap extension for compression for any design?

Cash! (1)

sabbede (2678435) | about 3 months ago | (#47221135)

Ford is using destroyed cash from the Treasury in their materials research for this exact reason.
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