Engineers have transformed wood into a tough, transparent material that surpasses that of conventional glass in its dissipative and insulating properties..
The structure of the tree has tiny nanoscale channels through which the plant is transported water and nutrients. A team of researchers from the University of Maryland decided to use this feature to improve the blocking power of transparent wood..
Scientists have treated a block of fir with chemicals, selectively removing lignin. This made the material transparent to light while preserving natural cellular structure and pattern.
Due to the remaining cell channels, sunlight can only pass through the material perpendicularly, regardless of the angle of incidence, so it is directed to the same area throughout the day. Painted stripes also reflect some of the incoming light.
The addition of epoxy resin significantly improves the thermal insulation characteristics of transparent wood and also makes it stronger than glass. Tests have shown that the new material is 2.5 times better at blocking heat and 3.5 times stronger than untreated wood, as well as excellent blocking of ultraviolet light. However, it transmits 80% of visible light with a turbidity of 93%.
Pattern, shade and transparency depend on the wood species and its age.
Transparent wood blocks heat and UV light better than glass
The development of a similar material was also reported by Swedish scientists last year, but the transparency of their material varied with temperature..
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: University of Maryland