You may soon have a stronger material than glass for natural light to pass through the walls of your homes as scientists have developed transparent wood that could be used in building materials and could help home and building owners save money on their artificial lighting costs.
The researchers believe that the material, described in the journal Biomacromolecules, also could find application in solar cell windows. “Optically transparent wood (TW) with transmittance as high as 85 per cent and haze of 71 per cent was obtained using a delignified nanoporous wood template,” the study said.
Homeowners often search for ways to brighten up their living space. They opt for light-coloured paints, mirrors and lots of lamps and ceiling lights. But if the walls themselves were transparent, this would reduce the need for artificial lighting — and the associated energy costs. Recent work on making transparent paper from wood has led to the potential for making similar but stronger materials.
Lars Berglund and colleagues from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, wanted to pursue this possibility. The researchers first removed lignin from samples of commercial balsa wood. Lignin is a structural polymer in plants that blocks 80-95 per cent of light from passing through. But the resulting material was still not transparent due to light scattering within it.
To allow light to pass through the wood more directly, the researchers incorporated acrylic, often known as Plexiglass. The researchers could see through the resulting material, which was twice as strong as Plexiglass.