Written By Karl VonBerg.

Posted on December 2nd, 2021.

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Have you seen the not-so-obvious things that are made from wood? Well, now here is another one: wooden nails, along with some other interesting items.

Wood has so many uses. 

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Many of which we might not think about.  

Recently, Teng Li, a materials scientist and mechanical engineer from the University of Maryland, made a wooden nail.  That nail isn’t just for looks, it actually nails boards together!

Let’s watch the nail get pounded! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIPb8ZxdWT4

My question is, if whoever is holding the boards takes their fingers away and really bangs on that wooden nail like any decent contractor would, will it hold up?  How about in a nail gun?  Well maybe I am getting ahead of where the technology is so far. After all, we are talking about a wooden nail here.  That is really amazing to think about!     

So how does this work? You can’t just get a thick splinter and expect it to do what you just saw.

There are several steps to making Hardened Wood (HW).

  1. Chemicals are used to remove some lignin.Lignin is the glue that holds wood fibers (cellulose) together.The fibers are what give wood its strength.  After this step the wood becomes a soft, flexible and squishy material.
  2. Pressure is applied and the temperature is increased.This densifies the natural wood and removes water.The wood is reduced to around a fifth of its original thickness.

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This produces a very strong material that is 23 times harder than the original wood!

This Hardened Wood (HW) has great potential in different areas.

  1. To fasten things together like above.The wooden nails don’t rust.Wooden staples?
  2. As flooring that is denser than present wood flooring, so it can withstand greater impact.
  3. As wooden utensils.These could replace plastic.

Li, the scientist, even made a knife from the HW and it is 3 times sharper than the typical dinner table knife and cuts steak just fine. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPj7h3SiIbg

Making these items from wood instead of metal saves energy and creates bio-degradable products.

New applications for wood are discovered regularly as scientists take their knowledge and share it across different scientific disciplines.  Do you have a daughter or son, relative or friend that might pursue work in this area? Share this and encourage them to head in a direction with endless possibilities.  Possibilities that are environmentally friendly.


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