Researchers at MIT engineered a composite made mostly from cellulose nanocrystals mixed with a bit of synthetic polymer. They found the cellulose-based composite is stronger than some types of bone and harder than typical aluminum alloys.

The organic crystals take up about 60-90% of the material, which – according to MIT – is the highest fraction of CNCs achieved in a composite to date. The team discovered a recipe for the CNC-based composite that they could fabricate using both 3D printing and conventional casting. They printed and cast the composite into penny-sized pieces of film that they used to test the material’s strength and hardness. They also machined the composite into the shape of a tooth to show that the material might one day be used to make cellulose-based dental implants.

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