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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 15:46 GMT
Petrified wood created in the lab
An electron microscope image shows a cross section of wood that was artificially petrified in days, mimicking a natural process that takes millions of years, PNL
The pine petrified in just a few days
A team of US scientists claims to have created petrified wood in just a few days, mimicking a natural process that normally takes millions of years.

Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory turned wood into mineral by soaking poplar and pine in a solution and then cooking them.

The process could provide new ways of filtering pollutants, soaking up contaminants and separating chemicals.

Details of the research appear in the journal Advanced Materials.

Petrified forests can form when trees are buried without oxygen, leaching out their woody compounds and sponging up the soil's minerals over millions of years.

To mimic this process in the lab, the team led by Yongsoon Shin bought pine and poplar boards. A 1cm cube cut from these boards is placed in acid for two days, before being soaked in a silica solution for two more.

Next, the cube is air-dried, placed in a furnace filled with argon gas which is gradually raised to 1,400C and left to cook for two hours.

Finally, the cube is left to cool in argon to room temperature.

Silica takes up permanent residence with the carbon left in the wood's cellulose to form silicon carbide, a ceramic.

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