Scientists create see-through wood

  • Researchers in University of Maryland created a see-through wood
  • Making wood transparent involves a simple two-step process
  • The see-through wood is highly transparent with a total transmittance of 90 percent

Researchers in University of Maryland, College Park in Prince George’s County in Maryland, USA have found a way to make wood transparent that is stronger and provides a better insulation than glass, and with better biodegradability than plastic.

The research team, led by Liangbing Hu, devised a way to transform wood into a see-through material that can withstand 10 times more stress and 4 times more strain than untreated wood.

Hu’s team used a simple two-step process to create a see-through wood that could one day be used in windows, tables and other building supplies.

“We were very surprised by how transparent it could go,” Hu, a materials scientist at the university and an author of a paper that appeared last week in the the journal Advanced Materials, said, adding  “This can really open applications that can potentially replace glass and some optical materials.”

The first step in turning the wood transparent involved the removal of the wood’s lignin, the molecule responsible for giving wood its color. This is done by boiling the wood in water, sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphite for roughly two hours. This step will make the wood colorless but not yet see-through.

In the second step, the wood is treated with epoxy resin that makes it 6 times stronger. The resulting wood composite, according to Hu’s team, is highly transparent with a total transmittance of 90 percent.

A similar project was undertaken by Sweden researchers led by Lars Berglund, but the wood composite they created was only 86 percent transparent.