Warm tones and natural graining make wood a popular finish while its low cost suits small-scale structural systems. But researchers and designers are rendering wood increasingly resilient, adding new uses for the classic material. From tall buildings to microfibers, we compile the latest wood products and tech.

Thos. Moser

Smooth Connections
Designed and manufactured by Auburn, Maine–based Thos. Moser, the Hunt Chair’s Minimalist, sweeping frame offers a contemporary redux of the classic Bank-of-England style chair. Originally commissioned for the Quiet Reading Room in North Carolina State University’s James B. Hunt Jr. Library, which was designed by Snøhetta, the solid-wood unit is “a legacy chair” for libraries, conference rooms, and dining areas, says Aaron Moser, director of the company’s contract division. “It’s one thing to design a chair that is really strong and lasts a long time, and it’s another to make sure it has [design] appeal.” Mortise-and-tenon construction connects the chair's legs to its curved back rail while rabbet joinery attaches the seat and legs. Available with or without a seat back, and in several wood species (cherry, shown). thosmoser.com

Striking Strands
San Francisco–based Smith & Fong’s Plyboo Dimensional Lumber gives architectural-grade wood an aesthetic and eco-friendly punch. Neopolitan, one of five designs, comprises hand-sorted strips of FSC-certified bamboo coated in resin and pressed into dimensional forms to create an “artful mix” of hues, says company founder and president Dan Smith. The wood making up the darkest strands is heated at 284 F for up to six hours, cooled, then heated for two hours at the same temperature. It meets California’s Section 01350 for limited off-gassing. plyboo.com

Light Load
London-based designer Benjamin Hubert crafted a wood table that’s light enough to lob across the room. Made from three-ply 0.8mm sheets of birch plywood, Ripple weighs just 20 lbs. but gets its high strength-to-weight ratio from its pressure-laminated, corrugated construction. benjaminhubert.co.uk

Opposites Attract
Achieve design versatility and material contrast with this pendant from German design studio Schneid. Eikon’s wood socket is offered in ash, oak, and bamboo and connects to three models of interchangeable metal and silicone shades using hidden magnets. Shade colors include mint green, coral, soft white (shown), black, and ice blue. The luminaire will be available in the U.S. in March. schneid.org

Worn Wood
The weathered aesthetic of rustic wood is reinterpreted on a ceramic surface by Italian tile maker Ceramica Fioranese. The Old Wood matte porcelain tiles contain 40% pre-consumer recycled content. fioranese.it

In the Lab

Nano Scale
The U.S. Forest Service is developing cellulose nanocrystals from wood fibers—touted as being as strong as steel at one-sixth the weight—to replace standby additives such as Kevlar and carbon fibers in high-performance composites. www.fs.fed.us

Strong Foundations
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that attaching glulam to the base of a concrete slab in wood–concrete composites using a shear connector can double the assembly’s strength and increase its stiffness by up to four times that of non-connected systems. bct.eco.umass.edu

Thermal Gains
With support from the National Science Foundation, University of Minnesota Duluth scientists are exploring the use of thermal modification to improve the dimensional stability and moisture resistance of engineered wood. The chemical-free wood treatment process is used in Europe. www.nrri.umn.edu