Basswood Composite May Become Future Construction Resource

Wood is a far more renewable resource in comparison to steel and concrete. As we know, wood has the capability to absorb carbon dioxide. Wood buildings, furniture, and homes could have the potential to extend that carbon-negative ability further. Steel, brick, and concrete have long dominated the construction industry. Yet, wood, especially mass-timber that’s composed of small pieces of wood and is laminated together to create durable panels is quite ideal for tall buildings. Plus, cement and steel contribute to roughly 14% of global carbon emissions. The housing demand is only growing, and more builders are turning to green, viable alternatives for furniture, home, and building solutions. Wood is that alternative.

Modern construction methods have been using engineered, high-tech wood solutions, commonly known as mass timber. Researchers are urging developers to utilize mass timber instead of cement and steel to reduce carbon emissions and still provide Canadians with ample living solutions. Nature Sustainability researchers stated, “we propose to exploit this projected demand for urban buildings as a means to mitigate climate change.” Building new locations using mass timber could prevent 20 gigatons of carbon over the next three decades because of the carbon dioxide consumed by biomass as it grows.

The most familiar mass-timber product to date is cross-laminated timber (CLT). Its panels are designed to be sufficiently stronger than steel and equally as fire resistant. The panels of this timber type are extremely thick and when faced with fire, typically, only the outside layers of the panels char which forms a protective layer for the rest of the wood.

Basswood Used by Researchers To Create Composite

Researchers from Rice University and the University of Calgary discovered a way to enhance carbon-capture ability through the natural wood. Using novel wood composites, the researchers were able to create sustainable wood that contains CO2-absorbing materials from the air and that’s stronger than authentic wood.

The research team developed the wood composite using basswood. They boiled it using a water-based chemical solution to remove lignin, which is the fibrous part of wood that gives it strength and durability. Once the wood was stripped, it became pure white, as the lignin provides the wood its dark colour. Then, the research team immersed the wood into a metal-organic framework (MOF) solution that allows it to form chemical bonds using carbon dioxide. Those particles then filled any hollow channels in the composite and found that they added mechanical strength to the wood.

As the composite is soaked in carbon dioxide, the carbon footprint should be reduced in structural materials like plastic and cement. The composite itself requires further study, according to researchers, but has the potential to be an effective and sustainable construction resource alternative for the future.

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