The Economist published an exciting article looking at the various ways material scientists are using natural plant fibers to enhance everyday materials.
Materials Scientists from Lancaster University are working with nanoplatelets made of carrots in order to add durability and strength to substances currently used for construction of buildings, cars, planes, toys, and more. The nanoplatelets are produced by CelluComp using carrots from various waste streams including supermarkets or food processing plants. By mixing the cellulose platelets with the typical materials used to make cement, they are able to produce stronger concrete. The carrot nanoplatelet additive also reduces the amount other ingredients needed in cement—ultimately decreasing CO2 emissions.
Stora Enso has also discovered how to use lignin as a substitute for oil-based resins and adhesives typically involved in the manufacture of plywood. They are also currently exploring how the pure lignin may be used to replace oil-based materials in carbon-fiber composites which are used in the manufacture of automobile and aircrafts parts.
Scientists at the University of Maryland are densifying wood by removing lignin in order to create a “super wood”. According to their research, this material is stronger than most metals and bulletproof!