Technology

Watch this wooden knife cut effortlessly through juicy, medium-well-done steak

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have figured out a simple, affordable method for creating natural wood materials that are 23 times harder than typical woods, according to a new paper published in the journal Matter. They tested their hardened wood samples by fashioning a wooden knife and several wooden nails and found that the performance of both matched or exceeded that of their steel counterparts. The researchers even managed to cut a medium-well-done steak with their wooden knife as a mouth-watering proof of concept. Bonus: the knife is dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.

Why bother making wooden knives when we have perfectly good stainless steel cutlery, not to mention disposable plastic utensils? The latter, obviously, are an environmental hazard, since the nearly 40 billion plastic utensils used annually are rarely recycled because they’re so small and light. And it takes a good 450 years for plastics to decompose, per the authors. As for steel and other nonrenewable hard materials—nickel-based and titanium-based alloys, for example, as well as nitrides and diamonds that are commonly used in a variety of engineering applications—they are costly to manufacture because they require creating extreme, energy-intensive conditions (ultra-high heat and pressure).

There is a lot of interest in the materials science community to come up with cheaper, more environmentally sustainable alternatives. “When you look around at the hard materials you use in your daily life, you see many of them are man-made materials because natural materials won’t necessarily satisfy what we need,” said co-author Teng Li, a materials scientist at UMD. He and his colleagues thought that wood could be a potential replacement for plastics, concrete, and steels.

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