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Goodbye Deforestation: Scientists Have Discovered a Method to Grow Wood in Labs

Goodbye Deforestation: Scientists Figured out a way to Grow Wood in Labs

Goodbye deforestation as scientists have discovered a method to grow wood in labs. The not so funny thing is that almost every “save the forests” gathering and conference is held in a well-furnished room with furniture made from tree cutting.

The market for wood-derived products was valued at $631 billion in 2021. It is predicted to reach $900 billion by 2026. This is despite all of the efforts made by environmentalists to prevent deforestation.

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So, have we given up the battle to conserve our forests? Not yet, because there is a new option on the horizon. This option promises to eliminate our need to cut down trees.

According to MIT scientists, lab-grown timber can be used to replace deforestation-driving products made of actual wood. They have devised a technique that allows timber to be created in any shape or size. So if you need a new wooden chair, you can make one in a lab. You can do this using the scientist’s technique without cutting down a single tree.

MIT scientists conducted an experiment in which normal plant cells were given stem cell-like capabilities. They took cells from the leaves of the Common Zinnia (Zinnia elegans), a blooming plant and kept them in a liquid medium for a few days.

The plant cells were then exposed to a gel-based medium that was rich in nutrients and hormones. The cells eventually generate new plant cells.

Goodbye Deforestation: Scientists Have Discovered a Method to Grow Wood in Labs

The scientists also discovered they could change the physical and mechanical properties of newly formed cells. They do this by adjusting the hormone levels in the gel medium. Plant material with high hormone concentrations stiffened during the tests.

“Hormones have a role in the development of your cells and the emergence of specific qualities in the human body. Changing the hormone concentrations in the nutrient broth has a similar effect on the plant cells.”

“We can elicit really big changes in terms of physical results just by altering these tiny chemical quantities,” lead researcher Ashley Beckwith said, explaining the role of hormones in plant cell growth.

Using a 3D bioprinting process, Beckwith and her team were also able to 3D print custom-designed structures out of the cells cultivated in the gel. The lab-printed plant material was nurtured in the dark for three months, and the results were astonishing. The lab wood not only survived, but it also grew twice as fast as a normal tree.

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It is estimated that humans take down roughly 15 billion trees each year
It is estimated that humans take down roughly 15 billion trees each year

The 3D bioprinting process produces

According to one estimate, the current furniture-making process wastes around 30% of the entire wood. Surprisingly, the MIT scientists’ proposed 3D bioprinting process produces no waste and may be used to make plant material in any shape or size.

“The concept is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need.” So you don’t have to conduct any subtractive manufacturing afterward, which saves energy and waste,” Beckwith said.

For the time being, scientists have demonstrated that plant material can be produced in a lab and its mechanical characteristics can be altered, but the research is still in its early stages. More research and tests are needed before the process can be further refined and used to produce 3D furniture on a commercial scale in the lab.

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It is estimated that humans take down roughly 15 billion trees each year. This huge deforestation is at the basis of many of the climate change-related problems that our world is currently experiencing. If this technology proves to be successful, lab-grown wood could finally put an end to deforestation.

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