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A new super-material - stronger, lighter and cheaper than steel - has emerged from scientists’ labs.

这是一种产生于科学家的实验室比钢铁更强大、更轻盈、更便宜的超级材料,。

It’s not a high-tech nano-polymer or some new alloy.

它并不是高科技的纳米多聚物或者某种新合金。

It’s wood.

那么它是什么呢?说出来你可能不相信,它是木头!

With just some chemicals, heat and pressure, researchers at the University of Maryland have made wood three times denser and 10 times stronger. That means it competes with some of the toughest materials on the market, according to study co-author Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland.

据马里兰大学的合作研究者胡良斌说,在经过了若干次的化学反应、加热与加压后,马里兰大学的研究者们使木头拥有原来木材三倍的密度与十倍的硬度。这意味着它可以与市面上一些最坚韧的物质相比。

We’re interested in replacing steel and carbon fibers with strong wood structures, he said.

他说:“我们还是更希望用坚固的木结构取代钢和碳纤维。”

Strong and inexpensive

木材牢固且廉价。

Since the process doesn’t require any special raw material, the product will be relatively inexpensive, Hu said. "We can start with very cheap wood, and we can also start with very fancy, expensive wood. But in the end, ultimately we get very similar performance."

胡说,因为加工过程中不需要任何特殊的原材料,产品相对来说较便宜,我们可以从很便宜的木料开始,我们也可以从很贵的木料开始。不过最终,不管是便宜的木料还是昂贵的木料,最终得到的性能都差不多。

The key to what the researchers call "super wood" is partially removing a natural polymer called lignin.

研究者称作超级木材制作的关键是部分去除一种叫做木质素的天然聚合物。

Lignin is like a binder to hold all the components together in natural wood, Hu explained. "In our process, we found out to be able to densify the wood completely, we have to remove some of these binders."

他解释说,“木质素像粘合剂一样将天然木材中的所有成分结合在一起。在实验过程中,我们发现,要想木材完全硬化,需要去除一些这样的粘合剂(木质素)。

Caustic chemicals strip wood of about half its lignin. Then, after a day in a hot press, the wood is strong enough to build cars, airplanes, wind turbines and more with it, according to the researchers. Their findings are published in the journal Nature.

据研究人员介绍,腐蚀性化学品剥去木材约一半的木质素,在热压机上保温加压一天之后,这种木材足够坚固,可以用来制造汽车,飞机,风力涡轮机等等。他们的发现发表在《自然》杂志上。

The researchers say super-strength wood would have less environmental impact than the steel or metal alloys it could replace. Their process is not pollution-free, however. It uses some of the same caustic chemicals involved in making paper.

研究者说高强度的木材与它所替代的钢铁或者金属合金相比,对环境造成的影响更小。然而,他们的工艺并不是无污染的。工艺使用了一些同样的与造纸有关的腐蚀性化学物质。

Hu and his University of Maryland colleague Teng Li have found unusual uses for this extremely common material. They have made wood batteries. They made transparent wood and paper, removing the lignin and replacing it with a clear polymer.

他和他马里兰大学的同事李腾开发了这种极其普通材料特殊的用途。他们制作了木材电池。通过去除木质素,并以清澈的聚合物代替,他们制作了透明的木材和纸张。。

Other scientists are finding remarkable uses for wood. Researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have made wood-based super-strong fibers for clothing and other materials. Kyoto University scientists are making plastics with cellulose nanofibers derived from wood.

其他科学家也发现了木材的非凡用途。瑞典KTH皇家理工科技学院的研究人员为服装和其他材料制作了以木材为基础的超强纤维。京都大学的科学家们正在用从木头中提取的纤维素纳米纤维制造塑料。

The more we worked on this material, we realized, we have never fully exhausted the potential of this amazing material, Li said.

他说,“我们越研究这些材料,越发现,我们永远无法完全挖掘尽这些惊人的材料的潜能。”