Magnetic wood could be a major plank in the battle against noisy cellphone users. The high-tech material absorbs microwave radio signals, making it impossible to use a mobile phone in any room lined with it. Or a radio for that matter. So theatres and restaurants, for example, can stop people using cellphones on their premises without resorting to signal jammers.

The magnetic wood – so called because it is packed with minute magnetic particles – is the brainchild of Hideo Oka and a team of electronics engineers at Iwate University in Morioka, northern Japan.