Wood has been used in buildings for millennia, because it is cheap, easy to work with and readily available worldwide. However, since the advent of skyscrapers and larger buildings, construction work has generally involved steel and concrete, because wood lacks the structural properties required to support such large buildings.
Researchers in the Department of Biochemistry have been using similar techniques to those used to investigate plant surfaces to analyse the microstructure of wood. Working with microscopists at the Sainsbury Laboratory here in the Garden, and using samples from this tree they identified a better understanding of how wood is formed. They are now investigating how changing the arrangement of the molecular building blocks in wood might alter its strength, with the aim of seeing more large buildings moving away from steel and concrete towards timber, which is more sustainable.
See the news story on the University of Cambridge website for more information on the research.