Wood Airplanes Making Comeback?

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A Canadian research organization says wood could be incorporated into next-generation aircraft designs, but don't expect to see two-by-fours in the bulkheads. In his technology blog , Seattle Times writer Brier Dudley reports that a technology forum recently heard from FP Innovations President Jim Dangerfield, who said the firm has applied nanotechnology to cellulose and can extract nanomaterials that, in combination with other materials, could find their way into aircraft. The properties of the materials would depend on the source material, of which there is plenty of variety.

Dangerfield says there are plans on the drawing board for a factory that could create a ton of nanomaterial a day and Gerould Young, director of materials & structures technology at Boeing Research & Technology, noted the evolution of airplanes has always been directly tied to the materials available to build them and ideas like Dangerfield's are part of a coming sea change in the way planes are made. "I think you're going to see really a revolution in that material as you go forward," Young said. "It will be significant over time, what we take out in terms of weight, and ultimately (contribute to) the performance of our aircraft."