A creative ‘smartwood’ project turns pulpwood to a material very similar to tropical hardwood, which is more environment-friendly and stronger.
Pulpwood as tropical hardwood substitute
The researchers of South Australia’s Flinders Centre for NanoScale Science & Technology (CNST) have worked together with 3RT Holdings Pty Ltd, an Australian company, to devise a process that converts cheap pulpwood to a greatly sustainable alternative for tropical hardwood.
3Wood has similar properties as the tropical hardwood. However, it has a greater dimensional stability, which makes it easier to get molded to furniture.
David Lewis, CNST Director and co-developer, mentioned that 3Wood helps remove wastage and also a more environment-friendly alternative.
The process of making 3Wood
3Wood is created using a complete log, including waste wood, and doesn’t bleed out or stain the nearby walls or floors.
3RT uses a method called lignocellulose manufacturing technology. This is to compress softwood to make a different product which is harder, denser and more durable compared to the original.
The ordinary pulpwood, which is accessible and also cheap, is given a special water-based adhesive which reacts to the wood fibers making it stronger.
Then, the wood is exposed to both pressure and temperature to make it to a rectangular-shaped 3wood block, having a 120cm x 13cm x 5cm dimension.
A new product with better properties
TAFE SA designed a table using the new product to give researchers a better understanding of its properties, as well as show its effectiveness.
Professor Lewis mentioned that through modifying its form, it was simpler to engineer the wood and to shape it to various products, avoiding the normal hardwood’s downsides.
He also said that more materials can be added to it in order to make it fire retardant, UV light resistant, termite resistant and water resistant. Those modifications are still being worked on.
Peter Torreele, 3RT managing director, said that 3Wood makes harvesting of native forests unnecessary. They also aim to replace every application where now hardwood will be used if it were accessible – Office Furniture, frames, floors and other possibilities.
Torreele also added that they were in discussions with several companies from across the world to commercialize this product.