Nanowood material insulates as well as Styrofoam

Researchers at the University of Maryland created a new, sustainable and lightweight nanowood material that is as insulating as Styrofoam, but stronger and more environmentally friendly.

Nanowood consists of tiny wood fibres. From these fibres, the researchers removed the lignin, the polymer that makes wood brown and rigid. Lignin conducts heat, and by removing this material, the nanowood gained impressive insulation capabilities. It also turns the nanowood white, which means it reflects light.

Compared to Styrofoam and silica aerogel, both common insulators, nanowood blocks heat at least 10 degrees better. In addition, the material can take 30 times more pressure than the other insulating materials. And as it is made from a renewable material, it is more sustainable than Styrofoam.

Unlike glass or wool insulators, the small particles of the nanowood do not irritate lungs of cause allergic reactions.

The material can be produced fairly cheaply and quickly using fast-growing trees. The team is working on commercialising the insulation and expect a product to be available next year.

Photo: University of Maryland (via Smithsonian)