Transparent Wood: Building Material of the Future?
Will Builders Eventually Use Transparent Wood in Their Builds?
Recently, scientists discovered a way to create a transparent wood material. It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s a material we could very well see more of in the future. How is transparent wood made, and what are some possible practical applications for builders? Keep reading to find out.
How is transparent wood made?
At the University of Maryland, researchers discovered a way to strip all of the colors and chemicals from a block of wood. The result is a transparent material that has better insulating properties than glass, is stronger than glass and biodegrades better than plastic. Researchers from Sweden also created transparent wood, though Maryland’s version is clearer.
To do this, the wood is placed in a boiling bath of water, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals. After 2 hours a polymer called lignin begins leaching out of the cell walls in the wood. Lignin gives the walls of plant cells rigidity, but it also gives wood its color. Without lignin the wood will turn white.
Next, the wood is soaked with an epoxy. The epoxy makes the wood stronger while turning it clear. The result? A block of clear wood that looks almost like plastic, but that’s far more eco friendly.
How Can Home Builders Use Transparent Wood?
There’s a long way to go before transparent wood becomes a mainstream construction material, but the possibilities for practical use certainly exist.
Transparent Wood and Solar Cells
Transparent wood could eventually be used for solar panel cells. According to Lars Berglund, a professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, “Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it’s a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource … This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells.”
Replacing Windows with Transparent Wood
Transparent wood will provide an excellent way for builders to bring more light into their projects. Because this transparent wood is stronger than standard glass it could be used for load bearing windows, for example.
Architects will be in a unique position to dream up new ways to bring in more light while maintaining privacy, and it will be exciting to see how they incorporate this new material into their designs.
When Will Transparent Wood be Available for Use?
Since it’s such a new discovery, researchers have a lot more work to do before transparent wood will be available for mass consumption and use. They’d like to figure out how to make the wood even clearer, and they’ll also need to determine the best way to scale production.
In the meantime, why not spend a few minutes dreaming about ways to include transparent wood in your home builds? In a few years those dreams could become reality.
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