Processing bulk natural wood into a high-performance structural material:
Wood is among the oldest materials used by humans, and is still commonly used for building. Its low density has also made it useful for transport applications such as shipbuilding, but this property is associated with a relatively low strength and stiffness. Scientists have tried to devise processes that make wood denser, to obtain materials suitable for high-strength applications, but with limited success. In a paper in Nature, Song et al. describe a densification method that combines a chemical treatment with high-temperature compression, and which produces an unprecedented increase in stiffness and strength.