According to published reports, researchers at MIT have started to grow wood in the lab without the use of soil or sunlight.
In its MIT News, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports that: “MIT researchers grow structures made of wood-like plant cells in a lab, hinting at the possibility of more efficient biomaterials production.
“It takes a lot to make a wooden table. Grow a tree, cut it down, transport it, mill it … you get the point. It’s a decades-long process. Luis Fernando Velásquez-García suggests a simpler solution: “If you want a table, then you should just grow a table.”
“Researchers in Velásquez-García’s group have proposed a way to grow certain plant tissues, such as wood and fiber, in a lab. Still in its early stages, the idea is akin in some ways to cultured meat — an opportunity to streamline the production of biomaterials. The team demonstrated the concept by growing structures made of wood-like cells from an initial sample of cells extracted from zinnia leaves.
“While that’s still a long way from growing a table, the work provides a possible starting point for novel approaches to biomaterials production that ease the environmental burden of forestry and agriculture.
“The way we get these materials hasn’t changed in centuries and is very inefficient,” says Velásquez-García. “This is a real chance to bypass all that inefficiency.”
“The paper will be published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Ashley Beckwith is lead author and a PhD student in mechanical engineering. Coauthors are Beckwith’s co-advisors Velásquez-García, a principal scientist in MIT’s Microsystems technology Laboratories, and Jeffrey Borenstein, a biomedical engineer at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.
You can read all about it here.