Which cuts better, wood or steel? This is no joke. Researchers have developed wood that is three times sharper than steel. The method was presented in the journal Matter. It was tested on table knives, with great results.
“The knife easily cuts through a medium well-done steak.” Teng Li, lead author of the study, confirms this. He is a materials scientist at the University of Maryland. The hardened wooden knife can be washed and reused. It is a promising alternative to disposable steel, ceramic and plastic knives.
They also produced wooden nails as sharp as conventional steel nails. They are rust resistant, of course. They could hammer three boards without damaging the nail. It would also make for scratch and wear resistant wood flooring.
Wood is usually only processed by steam and compression. But the material bounces back somewhat after shaping. “Cellulose is the main component of wood. It has a higher strength to density ratio than most materials. Current use doesn’t develop that potential,” he says.
Good for the environment
They processed the wood by removing the weakest components without destroying the cellulose skeleton. “We partially delignified the wood. Wood is usually very stiff. By removing the lignin, it becomes soft, pliable and somewhat mushy. We then apply chemical pressure to densify and remove the water.”
It is then coated with mineral oil to prolong its life. Cellulose tends to absorb water. This coating preserves the sharpness of the knife during use and when washing.
Wood three times sharper than steel is possible. The process is more energy efficient. They expect it to have less environmental damage. The list of applications is innumerable. Maybe one of these days, when you’re having your next steak dinner, you won’t be using a metal knife anymore, but a wooden one.