Researchers have unveiled a way to make wood transparent, opening up the possibility to eventually using it as a new material for windows.
They say that it is even hardy enough to use in cars and could be used to build advanced solar panels.
Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist, and his team at the University of Maryland, were successful in removing the wood lignin molecule that makes it rigid and a dark colour. They filled the transparent cellulose cells with epoxy and engineered a form of the wood that is practically transparent and high-haze, meaning that it scatters light.
Mr Hu suggested that the latter feature could be used to make devices easier to look at and even help solar cells trap light: the light would penetrate the transparent material but the high haze would retain it where the solar panel could absorb it.
Earlier this year a team of researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm presented a similar type of see-through wood that could transform the way that buildings and solar panels are built. They confirmed that this new material could be mass-produced and is an inexpensive renewable resource.
If used to construct buildings, a transparent wood material can potentially improve the quality of indoor lighting by allowing natural light to enter through the walls. This could reduce artificial lighting costs and even be used in solar cell windows.
Researchers are saying that this new transparent wood has the potential for large-scale use. It could be used for windows to admit light while still enabling privacy. Its ‘hazy’ quality also makes it a likely asset for solar cells because its light-trapping capability can improve the efficiency of the cells.