Researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have created a transparent wood that can be produced in bulk, the university announced Thursday.
Transparent wood isn’t new. Lumber has been fashioned into translucent, minute pieces for the study of wood. However, the university’s efforts could lead to the mass production of the material—something that could bode well for a society that’s increasingly focused on renewable resources.
KTH professor Lars Berglund said in the university’s announcement that an optimal application for transparent wood could be solar cells because the material is both inexpensive, easy to come upon, and a renewable resource. Berglund also suggest that transparent wood can be used for both windows and semitransparent facades if the end users wants to let in just some light, but also maintain enough sense of seclusion that they feel like they have privacy.
The durability, low density, and low thermal conductivity of wood also make it an enticing alternative to glass.
To make the wood transparent, the researchers chemically extract a part of the wood’s cell walls known as lignin.
“When the lignin is removed, the wood becomes beautifully white. But because wood isn’t naturally transparent, we achieve that effect with some nanoscale tailoring,” Berglund said, according to the university.
The researchers then infuse this resulting wood finish with a transparent polymer, which combines the optical properties of both the polymer and altered wood.
The researchers are now focused on making the transparent wood even more, well, transparent. They also want to expedite the development of the material and work with other varieties of wood.