The world’s hottest new supermaterial isn’t as fancy as you might think; it’s produced by feeding wood pulp to algae. The result, nanocellulose, is amazingly light, super-strong and conducts electricity. Unsurprisingly, that versatility lends it to plenty of fantastic possible applications. Here are some of the most exciting.
Ultimate Body Armor
eight times higher than stainless steel
Pioneer Electronics is experimenting with it
bit like graphenefilter out blood cells during transfusions
Picture: Twentieth Century Fox
flexible battery we’ve all been dreaming of
Because it’s so strong and light, nanocellulose can be crafted into foam that can support more than 10,000 times its own weight. As a result, it’s incredibly porous and super-absorbent. This stuff could make the fanciest wound-dressings and tampons you could ever possibly imagine.
Incredibly Fuel-Efficient Cars
Because nanocellulose is actually quite cheap — it’s made by algae, after all — it should be possible to use it in serious bulk. In fact, Ford reckons it will be able to create so many components out of the stuff — from body panels to interior trim — that it could shave 340kg off the weight of its cars. Prepare for your petrol bill to plummet.
In the process of having algae chomp through wood pulp to make nanocellulose, it’s possible to rig the process — by tweaking the DNA of the helpful little bugs — to create biofuel at the same time. OK, technically not a product of nanocellulose, but an amazingly useful byproduct of its production.
Picture: Steve Jurveston