• Artificial wood made from tobacco cells
    Top left: tobacco cells growing in a petri dish. Top right: Tobacco cells that have been impregnated with materials to make them conductive, dried and pressed into a wood-like substance.
    Credit: Chiara Daraio/Caltech

Designing Artificial Wood

Sarah Antilla, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, is working with Chiara Daraio, professor of mechanical engineering and applied physics, to create artificial wood products. To do that, Antilla grows tobacco cells in the lab and blends them with carbon nanotubes. The mix is then pressed and dehydrated. The final product is a material similar to wood but with special properties, like the ability to conduct electricity. The material could find applications in sensors or even touch screens. Antilla's research is sponsored by the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. 

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