About the possible prospects of the new material …
Smartphones have become very thin, made mostly of metal and glass – materials that don't always fit in with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The smartphone industry is always looking for new materials. We've seen progress from plastic to aluminum and aircraft grade alloys, stainless steel and even titanium inserts.
The metal case is highly stress-resistant, it helps remove heat from heating processors and batteries, but it also acts as a signal limiter. The metal back of phones, such as classic phones HTC M8 and M9, interferes with wireless charging and reduces antenna sensitivity.
Ceramic is another good material with advantages such as a comparatively higher hardness factor that resists scratches. But the material is more fragile, which can be a problem for a frequently dropped device such as a smartphone.
In the past, we've already seen companies try to experiment with wood in their smartphones. In 2014, the Moto X boasted a wooden back cover that served as an alternative to plastic or leather. It was just an external accessory and not a key structural component of the device. If you liked wood panels in Moto Maker, but wanted them to be stronger and more durable, then you're in luck – meet the “supertree”.
Why do you need a “supertree”?
It's not about a tree in superhero panties. This advanced compacted wood material was obtained through a relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive new manufacturing process from University of Maryland research. The process can turn any wood into a material that scientists say will be stronger than steel or even titanium alloys.
The processing process removes lignin from natural wood (a complex polymer compound contained in the cells of vascular plants and some algae. – Wikipedia). This substance makes the wood hard and brown. The wood is then pressed and compressed at 65.5 degrees Celsius, which tightens the cellulosic structure. The process reduces the wood to 1/5 of its original size and the resulting material does not return to its original shape, as is usually the case with compressed wood.
On the left is the raw wood, on the right is the final material.
The result is wood that is 12 times stronger than conventional wood and 10 times more resilient. These indicators have led to the interest of materials scientists in the use of “supertree” in the elements of buildings and machines. There are even applications for a new type of reinforced wood that can be used to craft bulletproof armor.
Scientists from the University of Maryland published their findings for the first time in the journal Nature, noting that their pressed wood is three times denser than the untreated substance, and also has a relatively higher hardness, better resistance to scratches and external influences.
Potential for smartphones
All this cannot but intrigue smartphone designers. For manufacturers, the new material could be a new, significantly cheaper option for future smartphones. “Supertree” could become the main solid in a smartphone, replacing metals and ceramics. You only need a protective glass in the front.
The tree in smartphones is pleasantly felt in the hand. It is less slippery compared to glass and will negate the need for a case for many users. In addition, part of the manufacturing process has been perfected by researchers, resulting in a transparent material from certain types of wood. Removing the lignin further will yield a new transparent material that can be used to protect OLED displays and improve lighting efficiency.
Peter Fratzl, a materials scientist at the German Institute for Colloids and Surfaces of the Max Planck Society, commented on the study to Scientific America that “instead of creating designs for existing material, researchers can create a material that works for any design.” In an email to the Android Authority, Dr. Lyangbing Hu (one of the supertree project researchers) said that the material “can definitely be used in smartphones, given its properties … It will be attractive from this point of view, given its lightness, great strength and density. It will be lighter than the metals used while still having similar mechanical strength. ”
Dr. Hu also said that a company was formed to bring the technology behind the “supertree” into circulation, and mentioned negotiations with the creators of Gorilla Glass, Corning. The researcher believes that already in 2019-2020, the “supertree” can be seen on the market.
By Tristan Rainer
Fantastic, you won’t say anything. But these are the technologies of the modern coming future, and they should be surprising. The tree at such a rate will cease to perform a purely decorative function and will become a full-fledged component of the device. In your opinion, will innovation be able to justify itself and become a breakthrough in the industry?