Maryland researchers tweak wood into cheap, effective insulating material

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In Maryland, researchers have developed an inexpensive, biodegradable, and heat-insulating material dubbed nanowood that could revolutionize energy-efficient buildings.

Current insulating materials are expensive, energy-intensive to produce, and are not biodegradable. A University of Maryland team—which already had produced “super wood” by removing some of the wood’s lignin—developed nanowood by removing all of the wood’s lignin and most of its hemicellulose. The resulting fibers had very few gaps and were aligned almost entirely in parallel, meaning heat travels vertically through the material but not through it.

“To the best of our knowledge, the strength of our nanowood represents the highest value among available super insulating materials,” the study authors wrote in a recent issue of Science Advances.

The material costs as little as $7.44 per square meter to produce, they added.