Coming Soon: Transparent Wood

See-through wood sounds like a fiction, but researchers in Sweden claim they have in fact developed a transparent timber that could replace glass panes in the future.

“Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it’s a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource,” explains Professor Lars Berglund from the Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH. “This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells.”

This new transparent timber is made by firstly stripping the lignin from the material. Lignin is a substance in the cell wall that normally blocks light. Once the lignin is removed, the remaining wood material becomes a beautiful, pure white.

But this doesn’t make it transparent yet.

The researchers then insert a transparent polymer (acrylic) into the wood to achieve a see-through finish. The resulting material looks like plexiglas, but is much stronger.

Transparent timber was on a microscopic level already possible before, but this latest innovation from researchers is making see-through timber a material suitable for mass production.

Because of the important role wood plays in the construction industry, Berglund believe this new development could be revolutionary within the sector saying, ‘‘Wood is by far the most common organic material in buildings. The material comes from renewable sources and has good mechanical properties such as strength, a low density and a low thermal conductivity.’

Source: Yahoo! News, photo: KTH Royal Institute of Technology