Glass windows may soon be a thing of the past.
Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a transparent wood material that could change the way we construct buildings and solar panels.
The new material is suitable for mass production, the researchers say, and is a low-cost renewable resource.
HOW TO MAKE SEE-THROUGH WOOD
To create the transparent wood, researchers chemically removed lignin from samples of commercial balsa wood.
Lignin is a structural polymer in plants and can be found in the cell walls, blocking 80 to 95 percent of light from passing through.
This alone, however, didn’t result in a transparent material.
Removing lignin makes the wood white, so researchers added added acrylic to the wood to allow light to pass through.
Not only did this create a see-through material, but one that was twice as strong as Plexiglass, the researchers found.
If used in the construction of homes and buildings, a transparent wood material has potential to improve indoor lighting, allowing natural light in through the walls.
This could save on the costs of artificial lighting, and may even have use in solar cell windows.
While this is not the first example of optically transparent wood, previous developments have focused on the study of wood anatomy on a microscopic level.
Researchers say this new material has large scale applications.
Panels of transparent wood could be used for windows or semi-transparent facades, to let light in while still maintaining privacy.
And, its ‘haziness’ also gives it promise for solar cells, as it traps light, thus boosting efficiency of the cells.