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Researchers make Transparent Wood for Energy Efficient Windows

wallpapers News 2020-12-19

A group of researchers from the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), in collaboration with the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado, have recently devised a transparent wood material which they claim will outperform glass in nearly every way.

The type of glass currently used in construction is not only expensive, but also quite inefficient, allowing heat to escape outside during cold weather months and build inside when it’s warm.

In addition, glass manufacturing leaves much to be desired when it comes to environmental protection – latest estimates have pegged the material at approximately 25,000 metric tonnes of carbon per year.

“Glass” made from wood could reduce the cost and environmental impact of construction. Image courtesy of USDA Forest Service

Luckily – as detailed in a paper for the Journal of Advanced Functional Materials – the advent of transparent wood could significantly reduce emissions from the construction industry and become one of the most promising materials of the future.

The process of making transparent wood involves treating the wood obtained from the fast-growing, low-density balsa tree to a room-temperature oxidising bath that bleaches it of nearly all visibility.

Next, the material is exposed to polyvinyl alcohol – a type of synthetic, water-soluble, polymer – resulting in a material that is virtually as transparent as the window glass used in most houses and apartment buildings across the world.

Thanks to the natural cellulose and polymer filling present in its structure, the new material is much lighter and more durable than glass, and capable of withstanding stronger impacts. Even when broken, the novel wood bends or splinters instead of shattering.

Given all the benefits of the new material, such as five-times greater energy efficient than glass, production using mostly or exclusively renewable materials, and full compatibility with existing industrial processing equipment – a mass-switch to transparent wood should be a no-brainer.

“The scalable, high clarity, transparent wood demonstrated in current work can potentially be employed as energy efficient and sustainable windows for significant environmental and economic benefits,” the researchers conclude.

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