Transparent Wood – The Great Advancement of Science
Usually, windows are made from glass and plastic due to their transparency and, when toughened, they can give structural support. However, buildings lose a lot of heat because these materials are poor insulators. On the other hand, wood – a traditional material, is a typical material that is highly insulating yet opaque. With the ever-increasing advancement of science, engineers at the University of Maryland, College Park, have developed a transparent wood that is much stronger and more resilient than untreated natural wood!
This study demonstrated how to make wood transparent by using hydrogen peroxide, a popular hair bleaching chemical. This chemical alters the pigment cells in the wood’s structure, causing the color to fade and reducing the wood’s ability to absorb heat.
Steps to create transparent wood:
The first step is to boil the wood and then let it react with hydrogen peroxide to extract the lignin. Lignin is a natural binder that strengthens the wood and is found in the vessels of plants. It gives the wood its yellow-brown color.
The lignin removal process takes 10 minutes for a small piece of wood and up to 24 hours for a large piece of wood, leaving the wood brittle and colorless.
The next step is to inject epoxy into the wood’s circuitry in order to restore the wood’s hardness. Epoxy isn’t new in the architectural world; it’s often used to reinforce composite materials in buildings. This step is essential to keep the cellulose microfibrillar structure intact, which takes about an hour.
The great advantages of transparent wood
In a follow-up study, scientist Tian Li tested the material by placing a transparent wooden panel on the roof of a model house. The findings revealed that, while transparent wood allows a little less light to pass through, it allows much less heat to pass through than ordinary glass.
More precisely, if the current water lines in the tree are cut perpendicular to the window surface, the light will still shine into the house in the same direction, regardless of the sun’s angle. “This means your cat won’t have to get up every few minutes to jump around in the warm sunbeams,” Li remarked.
Replacing glass windows with transparent wood is also very cost-effective. Transparent wood is five times more thermally efficient than glass, which cuts down on energy costs. Furthermore, wood is a sustainable, renewable resource with a low carbon footprint. It is also compatible with existing industrial processing equipment, making the transition to production easier as well.
With all of the above advantages, KANE believes that the use of transparent wood in everyday life will not be long in coming and will become increasingly common.
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