What is transparent wood?
We use wood mainly for construction and interior-related activities. Traditionally, the use of wood in the construction of homes is very common. Even today, the home constructed by wood has its own aesthetics and charm. You can say that wood has its own character. So, what will happen if you make wood transparent. The transparent wood will change the way we see construction today.
Besides, transparent wood is not science fiction anymore. It is happening in real and right now. The researcher Junyong Zhu from Forest Products Laboratory, in collaboration with the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado, designed a new transparent wood material. The transparent wood material will easily outperform glass in construction in many ways.
Also, the idea of transparent wood actually dates back to 1992. A German researcher Siegfried Fink converted normal wood into transparent wood to find out specific cavities in the wood for analytical purposes.
Furthermore, the glass used currently in construction is costly. Additionally, the process of making glass releases a large amount of carbon into the air, creating pollution. Also, the heat can easily transfer from the glass, and your energy bills tend to increase to maintain the temperature inside.
The creation of such type of wood involves the removal of coloring agents from the wood. Then, the addition of polymers and epoxy at cellular levels leads to transparent wood. The process is not that simple as it sounds. Additionally, all the methods currently in use are limited to laboratories. Large-scale manufacturing and its implications are still unknown. Besides, the feasibility and stability of such wood for construction are not yet verified.
Wood in its natural form is not transparent. The tarnish color of the wood is the result of its contents. Cellulose, Hemicellulose, and lignin are three major components of the wood. Out of which, the amount of lignin in wood decides 80-95% visibility in it.
Also, in order to make wood transparent, we need to lower down the absorption and scattering of light during the manufacturing process. So, the manufacturing process involves the removal of all of the lignin inside the wood. The process is nothing but delignification.
The delignification process involves drenching of wood in heated solutions containing sodium chloride, sodium hypochlorite, or sodium hydroxide for 3 to 12 hours. The temperature of the solution varies from 80 to 100 degrees Celsius. Once done, we need to immerse those samples in boiling hydrogen peroxide. This facilitates the separation of lignin from cellulose and hemicellulose.
Besides, this process also facilitates resin penetration. At the same time, the wood turns transparent. Then the samples need immersion in Poly Methyl Methacrylate at 85 degrees Celsius. This process also needs a vacuum. The time required for the last process is 12 hours. The process fills the space in the wood that lignin previously inhabited. So, finally, you get the transparent wood.
Transparent Wood Advantages
The process is still limited to the lab only. As research further proceeds, we can see its commercial use and implication. From the research, it is clear that this wood reduces the use of lights in the daytime. This material will provide uniform and constant light for the full day.
Furthermore, this material is lighter than glass. This wood will not shatter like glass. Instead, it will bend and can absorb more impacts. It is a more sustainable and renewable resource than glass. It emits less overall carbon in the manufacturing process. Hence, fewer emissions. We can use such wood in solar cells as well. Still, more research is needed for its application in daily use. But yes, transparent wood is real, and it’s coming to us really fast than we think.
In conclusion, transparent wood will definitely look promising new material. It is more sustainable, recyclable, and emission-free than traditional glass.
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