Each year, the world loses about 10 million hectares of forest – an area about the size of Iceland – because of deforestation. At that rate, some scientists predict the world’s forests could disappear in 100 to 200 years.
In an effort to provide an environmentally friendly and low-waste alternative to deforestation, researchers at Massachusetts of Technology (MIT) have pioneered a tunable technique to generate wood-like plant material in the lab. This could let someone ‘grow’ a wooden product like a table without needing to cut down trees, process lumber, etc.
The researchers have now demonstrated that, by adjusting certain chemicals used during the growth process, they can precisely control the physical and mechanical properties of the resulting plant material, such as its stiffness and density. They have also shown that, using 3D bioprinting techniques, they can grow plant material in shapes, sizes and forms that are not found in nature and that can’t be easily produced using traditional agricultural methods. They report their work in a paper in Materials Today.
“The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste,” says lead author Ashley Beckwith, a recent PhD graduate at MIT. “There is a lot of potential to expand this and grow three-dimensional structures.”Continue reading… “Lab-produced wood doesn’t grow on trees”