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Posted: April 17, 2009
Nanotechnology gets wooden planes airborne again
(Nanowerk News) Wired is carrying a story on how researchers in Canada have unveiled plans for a factory that will use nanotechnology to extract cellulose from wood and use it to form composite materials for airplanes:
It's not so implausible when you consider that Boeing and Airbus are using significant amounts of carbon composite materials in their latest programs.
Brier Dudley, who writes a technology blog over at the Seattle Times, says the factory has been designed by FP Innovations, a nonprofit research organization supporting Canada's forestry industry. Company President Jim Dangerfield says the process allows the extraction of cellulose particles just 20 nanometers long and 20 nanometers wide, and the factory will be able to produce as much as a ton of them each day. Combined with other materials, the fibers are tough enough to form a new generation of composite materials.
"My dream is that one day we'll be making airplanes out of this material (wood) again," Dangerfield said last week during a panel discussion near Seattle.
Boeing, for one, is interested. The aerospace giant is willing to consider any material that cuts weight and increases efficiency -- both of which are key to reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
"As we look to the future you're going to get more optimized configuration out of that material system (cellulose)," Gerould Young, director of materials and structures technology at Boeing Research & Technology said. "We're looking at all sorts of things."