June 12, 2008

Stronger paper and rapid manufacturing

A new kind of paper is stronger than cast iron and could be used to reinforce conventional paper, produce extra-strong sticky tape or help create tough synthetic replacements for biological tissues, says Lars Berglund from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

Despite its great strength, Berglund's "nanopaper" is produced from a biological material found in conventional paper: cellulose. This long sugar molecule is a principal component of plant cell walls and is the most common organic compound on Earth. Wood is typically about half cellulose, mixed with other structural compounds.

Cellulose is extracted from wood to make paper, is the basis of cellophane, and has also recently been used by materials scientists developing novel plastic materials. But they have used it only as a cheap filler material, ignoring its mechanical properties.

However, the mechanical processes used to pulp wood and process it into paper damage the individual cellulose fibres, greatly reducing their strength. So Berglund and colleagues have developed a gentler process that preserves the fibres' strength.

The new method involves breaking down wood pulp with enzymes and then fragmenting it using a mechanical beater. The shear forces produced cause the cellulose to gently disintegrate into its component fibres. The end result is undamaged cellulose fibres suspended in water.

It also means that the 214 megapascal strength paper (versus 1 megapascal for regular paper).

There is already a person who used 3D modelling and computerized cutting to create a cardboard based surfboard covered with epoxy.

The new paper made only from plant cellulose would be cheaper and strong enough for many applications.

Here is a link to video showing the assembly of the cardboard surfboard

Previous discussion on new ideas for a manufacturing and construction revolution. The new nanopaper will enable more rapid manufacturing with cheaper materials.

Feature on cardboard surfboard in surfer magazine
He looked to aerospace blogs for insight into the strength-to-weight ratio as it relates to design and how to graphically manipulate lines and rib interactions for his cardboard cores. "I'd look for the math that explained how to apply curves using programming language. Sheldrake cut the cardboard-core surfboard pieces using the stone company's laser cutter.

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