Translucent, touch-sensitive wood is revolutionising construction
The buildings and construction sector accounted for 39 % of energy and process-related CO2 emissions in 2018. The global production of cement alone is the third largest source of CO2 emissions due to human activity after fossil fuels and changes in land use. Bio-based materials offer an exciting opportunity to have a significant positive impact on our environment. Timothée Boitouzet, CEO and founder of the French SME Woodoo and coordinator of the EU-funded Woodoo project, has made this his life’s focus. Combining architectural studies in Japan with investigations of the chemistry, physics and molecular biology of wood at Harvard and MIT, Boitouzet founded Woodoo in 2017. The company’s products leverage cellulosic nanotechnology to bring us pioneering high-strength, weatherproof and fire-resistant wood materials that are as translucent as amber. Woodoo’s team fortified its market position with two new products, the scale-up of manufacturing and operations, filing of patents and establishment of collaborations with world-class automobile design manufacturers.
A bio-based ‘transfusion’
Wood is typically about 25 % lignin, a natural polymer that acts as a binder between wood cell walls creating a natural composite. Second in abundance only to cellulose, it serves important functions in living plants but is vulnerable to ultraviolet rays, decay and insects in cut wood. “Woodoo selectively extracts lignin and replaces it with specialty polymers. The new materials feature unprecedented mechanical strength, durability, fire resistance and optical properties,” explains Boitouzet. “By replacing emissive primary building elements, Woodoo’s biomaterials will be 17 times less energy-intensive than glass, 130 times less than steel and 475 times less than aluminium.”
Earth’s lungs breathe life into elegant bio-based creations
Whereas traditional construction materials contribute substantially to atmospheric emissions, forests are the largest storehouse of carbon after our oceans. They absorb and store about 30 % of carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry. Cultivating forests is good for our planet. Woodoo uses local wood materials including low-grade wood species (beech, birch, pine and aspen), all sourced from sustainably managed EU forests within 300 km of the manufacturing plant. Woodoo’s cost-effective alternatives to premium woods have a strength that parallels concrete, glass and steel. High-tech functionality for translucent wood displays and panelling will transform the display and use of information in conference rooms, commercial retail centres, airports and train stations around the world. Elegant, touch-sensitive, translucent, smart wood surfaces for automobiles and electronics will enhance the user experience while decreasing the carbon footprint.
A quantum leap in materials design – at lightning speed
Boitouzet concludes: “Usually, it takes nearly a decade to scale up material technologies and find a market niche. We have done so in less than 3 years, in large part due to the Woodoo project. Woodoo is revolutionising the way wood is used and perceived. Rather than a primitive material that is the antithesis of innovation and futuristic design, wood is transformed through technology into high-tech materials that simultaneously address the most pressing issues of our time.” The company has garnered over 35 coveted tech and innovation awards. Its growing portfolio of cost-effective, high-tech bio-based products will soon be touching our lives with touch-sensitive wood.
Woodoo, wood, biobased, touch-sensitive, construction, lignin, nanotechnology, automobile, electronics, cement