Researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed a new transparent wood material that’s suitable for mass production. In the not so far future, windows and solar panels could be made from one of the best — and cheapest — construction materials known: transparent wood.
A scientific team led by Professor Lars Berglund, head of Biocomposites Division in Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, recently published the article Optically Transparent Wood from a Nanoporous Cellulosic Template: Combining Functional and Structural Performance.
The team created a technique that begins with thin strips of wood veneer. Using a process similar to chemical pulping, he strips the lignin—which gives wood its brownish color—from the veneer pieces. Once the lignin has been stripped from the wood and replaced with a polymer, a one-millimeter strip of Berglund’s composite is 85% transparent—a number that Berglund thinks he will be able to increase over time.
According to professor Berglund “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.” Transparent wood panels can also be used for windows, and semitransparent facades, when the idea is to let light in but maintain privacy.
The advantage of transparent wood over something like glass is that it has all the strength of opaque lumber—but still lets in light. The same process could be used to create everything from transparent wood structures to load-bearing windows that never crack or shatter. In addition, the material is as biodegradable and environmentally friendly as regular wood. Obviously, when the material will be commercially available, architects and civil engineers will have a whole new spectrum of applications.
You can view a great video -teaser about the new revolutionary material here.
Transparent wood and flexible glass are two more new exotic materials from the many that are emerging recently. The advances in materials’ science will play an important role to recycling and waste management. The future of materials’ technologies will reshape recycling and waste management in an astonishing way and definitely it will be a cornerstone for each and every effort towards the circular economy.