Houses made with a new high-tech wood will help reduce emissions by lowering the costs of home air conditioning.
Liangbing Hu and his colleagues at the University of Maryland created super wood by removing lignin from natural wood (an organic polymer found in the plant cell wall) with the help of hydrogen peroxide (trivially: hydrogen peroxide).
What remains is a material made in large part by the other component of the cell wall: cellulose, which reflects visible light and absorbs very little infrared. In fact it is a "cooling" wood.
The research team has verified an important ability of super wood: that of absorbing the internal heat of the house during the day (which has a different wavelength than the solar one) and releasing it outside during the night.
Researchers report that the new wood is very dense and has a strength of around 404 megapascals, making it nearly 9 times stronger than natural wood and comparable to metals such as steel.
To measure the amount of energy it can absorb, the team “replaced” apartment walls and ceilings in 16 US states, evaluating the response of super wood depending on the climate: on average, the reduction in air conditioning costs is from 20 to 35%.
Given its characteristic, Hu explains, the material is ideal for areas that are warm and sunny for a long time, like Arizona and Hawaii.