The wood products of the future
Skyscrapers and batteries are two examples that can be produced using wood-based materials. And what not so long ago seemed technically impossible may soon be reality – using wood.
The construction industry is starting to embrace the many benefits that mass timber, glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT) offers. These engineered types of wood can be used to build stronger, lighter and higher than previously deemed possible.
Some projects that have utilized the advantages of mass timber at a large scale include Sara Cultural Centre in Sweden, Mjøstårnet in Norway, Brock Commons in Canada and Rocket & Tigerli which is under construction in Switzerland. The strength and properties of mass timber compared with concrete and steel make it possible to build multistory buildings in a sustainable way. Wood construction locks the carbon into the building while saving the carbon emissions needed if built with steel and concrete.
Batteries can be made using lignin, which makes up around 30 per cent of a tree, depending on the species – the rest is largely cellulose. Lignin is a wood polymer and contains carbon, and carbon is a great material for the battery’s anode. The lignin is extracted from waste pulp in pulp factories and can be processed into the carbon material used in the battery anodes.
Research has also shown that using nanocellulose broken down from tree fibers can create elastic high-capacity batteries – making an elastic, foam-like battery material that can withstand shock and stress.