It looks like wood, feels like wood, is even made of wood – but it shifts shape and solidifies like plastic, bringing together the most powerful material assets of two of the most used materials on the planet.
Lignin (an often-discarded element of regular wood) is combined with natural resins, flax and fibers that can be injected into molds and form extremely complex, precision-shaped objects normally made of conventional, non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastics. The resulting “liquid wood” has been dubbed Arboform by its German inventors, and may well revolutionize the worlds of material science and mass production.
Just like wood, it breaks down quickly and organically into eco-safe by-products like water and carbon dioxide. It is also made from a leftover part of trees that is unused during the paper-making process – over 100 million pounds of its main ingredient are created as a simple side-effect of the existing pulp industry.
What can be made of Arboform, aka liquid wood? Almost anything you can imagine from simple toys to complex gadgets, disposable cups to long-lasting automobile parts, custom-cast furniture to heavy-duty helmets – think of anything made of plastic or wood, and you will start to get the picture. In short: we are talking about the precision, flexibility and durability of plastic … with the 100% recyclable, renewable, tactile and aesthetic advantages of wood, in a single new material. Eat your heart out, see-through concrete and transparent aluminum.
“Mixing lignin with natural fibers (flax, hemp or other fibre plants) and natural additives produces a fibrous composite, that can then be extruded into sheets and processed at raised temperatures and pressure for all intents and purposes. It can be decomposed by rotting, in exactly the same way as grown wood and can even be disposed of by burning without producing any additional CO2. The materials are weatherproof and UV-resistant. With the addition of additives, it is possible to guarantee the flame proofing of the material used.”