Scientists have designed a novel type of wood that radiates heat away, paving the way for building materials that could keep homes cool and help save on electricity bills. Researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado in the US have harnessed nature’s nanotechnology to help solve the problem of finding a passive way for buildings to dump heat that is sustainable and strong. Wood is already used as a building material, and is renewable and sustainable, they said.
Using tiny structures found in wood — cellulose nanofibres and the natural chambers that grow to pass water and nutrients up and down inside a living tree — the specially processed wood has optical properties that radiate heat away, according to the study published in the journal Science.
“Cooling wood that is made of solely wood — that is, no any other component such as polymers — can cool your house as a green building material,” said Liangbing Hu, from the University of Maryland. “When applied to building, this game-changing structural material cools without the input of electricity or water,” said Yao Zhai, from at the University of Colorado.
By removing the lignin, the part of the wood that makes it brown and strong, the researchers created a very pale wood made of cellulose nanofibres. They then compressed the wood to restore its strength. To make it water repellent, they added a super hydrophobic compound that helps protect the wood.
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