Clear wood could one day replace glass for some uses

It may sound like science fiction, but scientists have actually created transparent wood. Researchers have developed a transparent wood material that they believe could replace glass in windows in the future. The team says that their invention has the potential to outperform standard glass currently used in construction in virtually every way possible.The researchers note that heat easily transfers through the glass, particularly single-pane glass. The transference of heat or cold through the glass into a home results in higher energy bills and could mean more pollution in the environment due to higher electrical demands. The manufacturing of glass produces approximately 25,000 metric tons of emissions per year.

Transparent wood is created using wood from a fast-growing and low-density balsa tree treated using a room temperature oxidizing bath. That oxidizing bath leaves the wood virtually transparent. After the oxidizing bath, the wood is penetrated with a synthetic polymer called polyvinyl alcohol to create a virtually transparent product.

The researchers say that the natural cellulose in the wood structure and energy-absorbing polymer fill used in the transparent wood makes it more durable and lighter than glass. The materials can stand much stronger impacts, and if it does break, it bends or splinters instead of shattering.

That would mean less potential for sharp, cutting debris. Balsa wood is also a sustainable and renewable resource that has low carbon emissions. The process of transforming the wood into a transparent material is compatible with existing industrial processing equipment. Compatibility with existing equipment is essential as it makes transitioning into manufacturing easy. It's unclear when the material might enter the commercial market. It's also not mentioned what industries the material might be suitable for. It might be cool to have clear wood windshields on cars in the future.