Scientists are at it again, doing amazing things with chemistry. In their latest endeavor, chemists at the University of Maryland at College Park have managed to create transparent wood which is basically, more insulating than glass and degrades more easily than plastic.
In order to achieve their results of the transparent wood, they got a piece of basswood (from the tree also known as tilia or linden) and of course a lot of chemicals.
They started out boiling the wood in a solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite in water for 12 hours. They then took it out, rinsed with warm water three times to remove residue of the chemicals. It was then immersed in hydrogen peroxide.
The chemicals used removed lignin which gives wood its characteristic color and left behind a colorless block. Still they proceeded to treat it with an epoxy resin which made it about six times stronger than the original block of wood.
In essence, the polymer layer creates conduits of light, making it look transparent. A simpler way to look at it would be that the channels that once pumped the nutrients the plant needed now instead carried rays of light. Such passageways do not exist in glass or plastic, and they therefore offer us a new way of transferring light from one side to another.
Although this is far from being the first time someone has made wood transparent, it can be referred to as the first time researchers have been able to make a 10 mm-thick piece of wood, sized 100 mm by 100 mm in area, almost completely transparent.
The proposed usage for such a product is apparently for construction and for that to work, there still needs to be a lot more work done to make it better. Still it’s a fascinating thought that in a couple of years our window panes could be made out of transparent wood, that will surely be a little harder to meddle with and the aesthetics are also promising.