Through emulating the natural cellular architecture of wood, the researchers present the ability to create green products derived from trees, with unique properties – everything from clothes, packaging, and furniture to healthcare and personal care products.
The way in which wood grows is controlled by its genetic code, which gives it unique properties in terms of porosity, toughness and torsional strength. But wood has limitations when it comes to processing. Unlike metals and plastics, it cannot be melted and easily reshaped, and instead must be sawn, planed or curved. Processes which do involve conversion, to make products such as paper, card and textiles, destroy the underlying ultrastructure, or architecture of the wood cells. The technology now presented by the Chalmers University researchers allows wood to be, in effect, grown into exactly the shape desired for the final product, through the medium of 3D printing.