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If an engineer were to design a high-tech construction material he would almost certainly start with strong polymer chains (micro fibrils). To maximise the strength to weight ratio, he might construct small tubes (cells) by embedding cross-branded mats of these fibres in a resin matrix (lignin), gluing these cells together in a three dimensional structure to the required size. An engineer would also want to maximise aesthetics, cost effectiveness, strength-to-weight ratio, workability and thermal properties. They would plan to manufacture the material from a renewable resource using minimal energy and water and produce minimal pollution. Ideally the material would be reusable, recyclable and biodegradable at the end of its multiple service lives.

Fortunately, nature has already done the design and manufacturing for us. We call it wood.