To shape the future, next-generation materials need not be as exotic as topological insulators and metamaterials. Researchers are investigating the potential of nanocellulose—a nanostructured form of cellulose that can be obtained from the humble wood chip—for applications ranging from microfluidic devices to rechargeable batteries. A team led by Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland in College Park reported at the 2019 Fall Meeting of the Material Research Society in Boston that a material that combines nanocellulose with graphite has mechanical properties that surpass those of steels and of other established structural materials. The recyclable composite could offer an environmentally friendly alternative for building lightweight vehicles, aircraft, and body armor.

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