Jets of salty water make cellulose strands stronger

Jets of water accelerate cellulose nanofibrils, forcing them to align in the direction of the water flow, as shown in this artist's illustration. When the fibrils align and are left to dry, they lock together to form ultra-strong cellulose fibers.

Eberhard Reimann/DESY

When blasted by jets of salty water, nanoscale cellulose fibers align to form ultra-tough strands that can be stronger than steel. The new method for streamlining the fibers creates cellulose strands that are stronger and thinner than what’s been made previously and can be scaled up to make longer strands, researchers report June 2 in Nature Communications. The results offer a small step toward making wind turbines and other products from biobased materials and could also influence how carbon nanotube and graphene filaments and artificial silk are made, the scientists note.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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