Scientists Create Transparent Wood, Could Revolutionize the Way We Build
Science| | By Lauren Boudreau
If you’re wondering why in the heck anyone would need transparent wood, it turns out the stuff is actually more insulating than glass and can degrade better than plastic (which isn’t surprising considering plastic is thought to never biodegrade). However, the new wood can be used for windows, in cars, and be a “unique building material,” according to Dr. Mingwei Zhu, the co-first author of the paper and visiting professor from the University of Maryland. The scientists used a three-inch thick piece of basswood and removed something called lignin, which gives the wood its color. Quartz detailed how exactly they did it:
“First, the wood was boiled in a solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite in water for 12 hours. Then it was rinsed with warm water three times to remove chemicals, followed by immersion in hydrogen peroxide. These chemicals removed lignin, which gives wood its color, and left behind a colorless block.”Dr. Zhu also mentioned how the transparent wood had “high haze,” which means it scatters light easily, and could therefore be used to trap solar energy since the haze “would keep the light bouncing around near where it would be absorbed by the solar panel.” Researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have also apparently created transparent wood. Lars Berglund, a professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH, said that the new substance could be produced at a very low cost and is “readily available.” “Wood is by far the most used bio-based material in buildings,” he said. “It’s attractive that the material comes from renewable sources. It also offers excellent mechanical properties, including strength, toughness, low density and low thermal conductivity.” Perhaps this means we could all soon be living in transparent houses. Not sure we’re ready for that.