Pine transformed by modern alchemists

January 27, 2012 By Lionel S. Pousaz
A new world opens for pinewood, here is a door handle made out of the compressed wood. Credit: EPFL+ECAL

Swiss researchers have given pinewood the hardness and smooth touch of precious wood. L’EPFL+ECAL Lab presents the first objects made of this new material in Helsinki today.

Pinewood made denser than ebony, textured and hard likes the pure essence of itself? Thanks to a process that reminds one of alchemic essays to turn lead to gold, a team led by Parviz Navi has given simple pinewood similar qualities to wood from expensive and rare tropical species. Starting on the 26th of January, EPFL+ECAL Lab is displaying several objects from daily life made out the new material. Elegant and sleek, objects such as headphones and a door handle show the promising possibilities of the new procedure.

Wood is composed of straw-like tubes filled with air—becoming much denser when compressed. This process has been known for some time now, but until very recently the wood would bounce back into its original form when in contact with humidity. By tweaking the parameters of compression, the EPFL researchers have stabilized the compacted wood without adding any resin or other substance. Suddenly, pinewood loses its working-class roots and inspires for more lofty ambitions—teck, ebony or amaranth.

EPFL+ECAL Lab has called upon Swiss and French designers to create objects out of the new material. Each new project explores a different aspect of the wood. “These first trials are meant to explore the wood’s potential,” explains Nicolas Henchoz, director of EPFL+ECAL Lab.

“We are still in the experimental phase, the procedure will be optimized in the near future in order to move to industrial production,” Henchoz added.

If the bet pays off, it could reduce the burden on tropical forests.

Explore further: Swiss researchers create unscratchable gold

Related Stories

Nanotechnology Treatment Protects Wood in Australia

February 7, 2005

Nanotec Pty Ltd based in Sydney, Australia announced today the start of the marketing of it’s wood protection product “Nanoseal Wood”. Nanoseal Wood is a water based, ultra hydrophobic, colloidal solution with self ...

EPFL robots will soon appear in school classrooms

November 28, 2011

( -- Swiss scientists have developed an educational robot designed to introduce children to technology in schools. Baptized Thymio II, it was officially presented to teachers in the Canton of Vaud last friday.

Domestic robots: Harmony on the homefront?

December 21, 2011

Are robots welcome in our homes? A qualitative study done at EPFL has revealed some interesting possibilities. Only one out of three households thinks automatic vacuum cleaners are worth the investment. The opinions of the ...

A touchscreen you can really feel (w/ video)

November 16, 2011

( -- Swiss researchers have invented a new generation of tactile surfaces with relief effects – users can feel actual raised keys under their fingers. This technology could have many applications, particularly ...

Recommended for you

Turning CO2 to stone

October 25, 2016

Earth has limits to the amount of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere before the environment as we know it starts to change. Too much CO2 absorbed by the oceans makes the water more acidic. Too much in the atmosphere warms the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.