June 6, 2016 | David F. Coppedge

Want a Wood-Plastic Bowl for Your Wood Stew?

Scientists are realizing that components of wood have many practical and healthful uses.

Wood Plastic

Researchers in Finland are developing composite materials from wood and plastics, manufactured using liquid byproducts of wood. PhysOrg describes how they are repurposing liquid waste material from biochar production and combining it with plastic to make materials that are greener for the environment.  The resulting “wood-plastic composites” (WPCs) can be used for automobiles, buildings and other everyday products wherever petroleum-based plastics are currently utilized.

Wood Stew

Woodchucks might chuck wood, but who could chew it? Old time environmentalist Euell Gibbons used to get chuckles by munching on bark in his quest for natural foods, but scientists are beginning to discover nutrient value in wood-derived polymers like xylan, fibrillated cellulose and lignin. Science Daily tells how Finnish researchers are considering xylan (a variety of hemicellulose) to enhance texture of foods like yogurt. Fibrillated cellulose can act as a thickener for dairy products. Even lignin, a prime component of wood, might look delicious in future food products:

Amazing FactsAs technology develops, increasingly sophisticated ingredients can be extracted from wood, and even lignin could be a candidate for a new food additive. The surface-active properties of lignin could be utilised to prepare emulsions (mixtures of water and oil) and foams with improved texture. Lignin could also be used to reduce oxidation in food products.

VTT tested lignin in the manufacture of muffins: In addition to giving muffins a fluffier texture, lignin proved to be a surprisingly efficient substitute for whole eggs and egg yolks. Lignin also functioned as emulsifier in mayonnaise and supported juiciness in a meat product.

Don’t go sprinkling sawdust in your cookie dough just yet. Researchers are still working out the safety aspects of these additives, the article says.

We are surrounded by riches we too often dismiss as useless. Eat a tree? Right. Come on. Wood is for burning. But within that wood there are amazing molecules that are just now—after millennia of dismissive ignorance—proving to be good as gold. If we looked at the world as the product of a wise Creator, we might enjoy a higher quality standard of living.

The Israelites tired of eating manna in the wilderness. No doubt God endowed manna with incredible nutrients to sustain complex human bodies surviving in a desert wasteland. What the wanderers should have done was hire some creation chemists to examine the properties of manna more carefully and think of more uses for it. With a genius like George Washington Carver present—who made a whole meal out of peanuts (including drinks and desserts)—who knows? They could have come up with recipe books for manna steak, manna tea, manna salad, manna chicken and manna ice cream.

We need to tap into the rising generation of home schooled scientists-in-waiting who didn’t get their creativity clouded by Darwinian vanity. To see the world as a treasure chest of wisely-designed riches opens the door to enthusiastic research that asks, “What can we do with this amazing resource?”

Here’s a surprising example to end with. Poop is something to flush or bury as fast as you can. But wait; there’s energy in that crap. Believe it or not, Science Daily reports that Korean scientists are turning it into “next-generation biofuel.” Dehydrated and processed into an odorless compost, and then processed with bacterial engines into biodiesel or heat energy, this cheap and abundant resource could bring energy and prosperity to many poor people in third-world countries. It’s all in how you look at things. You are a well-designed refinery. Manna steak in, biodiesel out.

 

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