Received an interesting e-mail from Javier, a reader of this blog that posted the following question:
Is it safe to say that the larger the diameter the bamboo is, the stronger it is? If not, please shed some light on this.
Great question and the answer is "no." It really depends on the fiber and lignen (the white binding material between the fibers) and how tightly packed they are. So, bamboo with larger air chambers (like Phylostachys heteroclada "Water Bamboo") in them or ones that are not as densely packed, even if they are large in diameter, are not necessarily the strongest.
But more impressive is the fact that bamboo, in its very strongest form is like reinforced concrete and is, in some cases, stronger than steel. Steel has a tensile strength of 23,000, while the strongest bamboo has a tensile strength of 28,000.
It also used 1/8th the energy in production that concrete does, pretty impressive.
For more interesting facts on bamboo, its strength and its possibilities for solid, environmentally friendly buildings of the future, check out the article from Discover Magazine, ironically enough, from 1996 - The Bamboo Solution.