The balance between softness and sturdiness made balsa wood’s natural structure the choice to transform into a sponge capable of enduring extreme mechanical conditions.
Balsa wood has been used as a base for developing a wood carbon sponge capable of withstanding repeated compression and other extreme physical conditions by a joint Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, and University of Maryland, USA, team.
The stiff hemicellulose and lignin fibres that maintain the cell wall structure are chemically destroyed. The treated wood is then heated to 1,000˚C in order to turn the organic material into carbon, transforming the rectangular microstructure of balsa into wavy, interlocking carbon sheets.
Applications for the wood carbon sponge are believed to be numerous, including water purification, energy conversion and storage, and supercapacitors and rechargeable batteries.