Newly created transparent wood paves way for greener homes

In what seems like a bit of modern day alchemy, researchers have managed to transform real wood into still-real transparent wood, giving it a somewhat cloudy appearance like roughed up acrylic or dry craft glue. According to the study, which was published in Biomacromolecules earlier this month, the researchers were able to achieve a level of transparency as high as 85-percent, and a haze level as low as 71-percent to create what they call "optically transparent wood."

The transparent wood was created by scientists at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, where Professor Lars Berglund and his team used a couple of methods to strip real wood of its color and opacity. This involved stripping away the lignin, which absorbs light, resulting in what the researchers say is nanoporosity in the wood's cell wall.

From there, the study explains:

Transparent wood was prepared by successful impregnation of lumen and the nanoscale cellulose fiber network in the cell wall with refractive-index-matched prepolymerized methyl methacrylate (MMA). During the process, the hierarchical wood structure was preserved. Optical properties of TW are tunable by changing the cellulose volume fraction.

The image above is waxy looking, but as noted above, the degree of transparency can be tweaked to different levels to better suit various construction needs. In the future, the researches are aiming to increase the level of transparency possible.

Despite its seemingly stripped nature, the wood is still strong and could prove to be a cheaper way to create green buildings able to transmit light, reducing the need for electricity and light bulbs. Presently, glass is the most commonly used element for creating light-friendly buildings, but it has its downsides, particularly in places where the weather is volatile and large glass windows are impractical. The method used to create this transparent wood is suitable for mass production, as well, making it more appealing in large projects.

SOURCE: Gizmag