There is a quiet revolution going on in materials science, and we’re not just talking about small things like clothing, toys, or shoes. Construction materials like concrete using carrot and beets or super plastics made from wood will be more common as researchers understand how to manufacture these materials at scale.
The use of natural fibers instead of concrete or plastic is gaining traction as more and more research in materials-science is revolutionizing our approach to manufacturing, while, at the same time, increasing durability and strength to materials commonly used for manufacturing. The added benefit is that using natural fibers will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Making concrete represents 5% of man-made CO2 emissions.
Why carrots, beets, and wood? Nature has built-in properties into cellulose that are tough and when dried, is tough. Concrete, which is a combination of sand, stones and crusted rocks held together with cement, can be held together by carrot cells. Cellulose found in wood provides the structure and rigidity for trees and plants. It can also be used to make plastic. Lignin is one of the waste products from making paper and has the potential to replace adhesives and petrochemicals in manufacturing car and plane parts.
The biggest benefit is that the raw materials discussed are waste products that are now feedstock for new manufacturing processes – carrot and beet peels, pulp waste from paper manufacturing – are no longer discarded meaning they are no longer a burden. This is the embodiment of biomimicry for the manufacturing sector. In nature, there is no such thing as waste.
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