Bamboo is a remarkable material. Some species have stalks as dense as hardwood. It's the world's fastest-growing woody plant, and it's an exceptionally good absorber of carbon. But its irregular, knotty form is a problem. Making a reliable bamboo structure used to mean picking through stalks to find the ones that met precise measurements. Timber, on the other hand, can be cut to standard sizes. So Xiao set about developing a process to transform bamboo strips into easy-to-manage beams [see "The Sustainable Bridge"]. In 2006 he devised GluBam, bamboo timber sturdy enough for beams and trusses. Last winter, he returned to China and, using just an eight-man crew and no machinery, built a 33-foot GluBam bridge capable of supporting eight tons in the remote, ramshackle Hunan province town of Leiyang. The feat was so surprising, it was covered on China's national news.