“Nanowood”: Better than Styrofoam?

Researchers at the University of Maryland have created an eco-friendly alternative to Styrofoam using nano-size wood fibers. This nanowood surpasses the capabilities of most all other insulators, blocking heat at least 10 degrees better than Styrofoam and silica aerogel and it is able to withstand at least 30 times the amount of pressure it takes to crush these common insulators. The “top down” approach of making the nanowood consisted of using cost-efficient chemicals (sodium hydroxide, sodium sulphite and hydrogen peroxide) to strip away the lignin and hemicellulose of the wood, leaving nanofibers and cellulose.

According to Jeff Youngblood, of Purdue University, “this work shows that with proper treatment, wood can become stronger and more insulating than commonly used insulation, such as fiberglass for houses, with the added benefits that it is non-toxic and sustainable”.

Photo: Hua Xie, University of Maryland