Why wood pulp is world’s new wonder material

THE hottest new material in town is light, strong and conducts electricity. What’s more, it’s been around a long, long time.

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), which is produced by processing wood pulp, is being hailed as the latest wonder material. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays. IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armour and ballistic glass.

To ramp up production, the US opened its first NCC factory in Madison, Wisconsin, on 26 July, marking the rise of what the US National Science Foundation predicts will become a $600 billion industry by 2020.

So why all the fuss? Well, not only is NCC transparent but it also has eight times the tensile strength of stainless steel due to its tightly packed array of microscopic needle-like crystals. Even better, it’s incredibly cheap.

“It is the natural, renewable version of a carbon nanotube at a fraction of the price,” says Jeff Youngblood of Purdue University’s NanoForestry Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The $1.7 million factory, which is owned by the US Forest Service, will produce two types of NCC: crystals and fibrils.

NewSci

One response to “Why wood pulp is world’s new wonder material

  1. ” the US National Science Foundation predicts will become a $600 billion industry by 2020.

    > > > >

    Even better, it’s incredibly cheap.”

    I should think they’d have to cover the earth with it to get $600,000,000,000 from something “incredibly cheap.”

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