Bleached white nanowood is an excellent thermal insulator that is even better than styrofoam. Nanowood is made of stripped-down wood fibres making the material environmentally friendly and biodegradable. Current challenges in construction include insulating materials that are expensive and unsustainable. Researchers at the University of Maryland have probed the properties of nanocellulose and removed the wood''s lignin - a complex polymer that holds cellulose in the wood together like glue. Without lignin, which is very good at conducting heat, the woody material turned pure white allowing it to reflect up to 95% of incoming radiation energy when exposed to the solar spectrum.
Nanowood is strong, lightweight and cheap to make. It can withstand pressures 30x more than commercial thermal insulation materials. This biodegradable material could have a host of future uses for energy-efficient applications, particularly in construction to build skyscrapers, manufacture cars and even protect heat-sensitive electronics.