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Scientists created magnetic wood that can shield against EMC/EMI

In the ever-evolving world of technology, electromagnetic interference (EMI) has become a significant concern. Every electrical device, as it operates, emits electromagnetic fields that can disrupt the performance of other devices, sometimes even causing them to cease functioning. However, a groundbreaking development in the field of EMI shielding might change the game entirely. Scientists have now created a lightweight, magnetic wood that can effectively shield against electromagnetic interference.

The Emergence of Magnetic Wood

The innovative mind behind this development is Professor Hongli Zhu and her research team from Northeastern University in Boston, USA. They have ingeniously incorporated magnetic nanoparticles into a lightweight 3D scaffold made from basswood, a porous structured wood. The result is a magnetic wood that is significantly lighter than traditionally used magnetic metals, offering a versatile solution for EMI shielding.

Result of Research: The resultant magnetic wood displays an optical brown appearance and possesses a typical magnetic hysteresis behaviour with a saturation magnetization of 4.5 emu g−1 for the whole wood. More importantly, the obtained magnetic wood is much lighter than traditional magnetic metal and construable for versatile applications. Notably, the 3 mm thick magnetic wood shows 5–10 dB (or 7–10×) enhanced electromagnetic wave attenuation across the X-band of 8–12 GHz compared with nonmagnetic wood with the same thickness.

The Production Process

The production process of this magnetic wood is as fascinating as the product itself. It begins with the removal of lignin from natural wood, a process that leaves behind a porous structure. Following this, the wood undergoes mineralization, which imparts the woodblock with its electromagnetic shielding properties. The magnetic aspect comes into play when iron oxide nanoparticles are firmly attached to the surface of the wood cell walls through alternating incubation cycles with ferrous sulfate and sodium carbonate solutions.

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite the promising results, the production process is not without its challenges. The most significant hurdle, as Zhu points out, is to uniformly grow the magnetic materials inside the wood. However, with the rapid advancements in nanotechnology, it is plausible that more efficient methods of nanoparticle incorporation will be developed in the future.

Potential Applications

While magnetic wood's most promising application lies in defence and information security protection, its potential extends far beyond these areas. The lightweight and versatile nature of this material opens up possibilities for its use in various sectors where electromagnetic interference is a concern, such as healthcare and transportation.


The creation of magnetic wood marks a significant milestone in the quest for effective EMI shielding solutions. It not only offers a lightweight and versatile alternative to traditional materials but also paves the way for sustainable, environmentally friendly options. As we continue to innovate and push the boundaries of technology, it is developments like these that bring us one step closer to a future where technology and nature work in harmony for the betterment of all.

References: Z. Cheng, et al., 'Lightweight and Construable Magnetic Wood for Electromagnetic Interference Shielding.' Advanced Engineering Materials (2020)

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