MIT Researchers Develop Lab-Grown Wood Substitute

    Scientists at MIT have developed a lab-grown, plant-based substitute for wood that can be customized for stiffness, density, and form, the Woodworking Network reports.

    “The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste. There is a lot of potential to expand this and grow three-dimensional structures,” said lead author Ashley Beckwith, a recent PhD graduate.

    The process begins with cells from young specimens of a common annual plant, Zinnia elegans.

    Luis Fernando Velásquez-García, senior author of the paper, and a principal scientist in MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories, said that lab-grown plant materials can be tuned to have specific characteristics, which could someday enable researchers to grow wood products with the exact features needed for a particular application, like high strength thermal properties.