Recently, scientists have been touting "liquid wood," a bizarre new material which some think could become as ubiquitous as plastic. Ford, eager to burnish its green credentials, took notice: One of its research wings in Germany has just inaugurated a three-year, $1.4 million program to figure out if liquid wood can be used in their car interiors and engines.
"Liquid wood" might sound like something Lex Luthor would use to choke the planet, but the innovation's chief allure is green. Also known as Arboform, it was first invented by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology. Basically, it's comprised of any stray bits of wood—including wood and paper waste—that's combined with fibers and wax. The mixture starts as a thick sludge that can be poured and injection molded, just like plastic. But unlike plastic, liquid wood isn't made of any petroleum byproducts, and it doesn't contain a stew of toxic compounds (such as phthalates). The material's main component is discarded wood, which the paper industry throws away every year, to the tune of millions of tons. At the end of the product's lifecycle, it can then be recycled up to five times. Researchers claim that it's virtually carbon neutral.
Ford already claims that is uses some 290 parts derived from renewables, such as cotton, hemp, and jute fibre. Patchouli? Not yet. Until then, bring your own.
[Via press release]