Where can I buy transparent wood

Transparent wood: Researchers are developing alternative building materials for interiors

Pure wood is making friends so quickly in the construction industry that the cement industry is intensifying advertising for its building material, concrete. With new processes, the strength of wood can also be increased to such an extent that it can compete with steel and titanium alloys with lower weight and costs at the same time. Now the wood researchers working with Liangbing Hu from the University of Maryland in College Park are going one step further. They developed a process to turn thin wooden panels into a transparent material.

So far, time-consuming and energy-intensive

However, transparent wood is not entirely new. Chemicals can be used to wash the lignin - responsible for its strength and brown color - from thin layers of wood in a time-consuming and energy-intensive process. Instead, Liangbing Hu and colleagues used a hydrogen peroxide solution that they brushed into a wooden board that was just a millimeter thick.

After that, the UV component in sunlight was sufficient to remove the coloring molecule groups in the lignin. The researchers filled the micrometer-fine pores in the wood with a transparent epoxy resin. Toxic chemicals could be dispensed with for this process.

High strength

In a pilot test, a transparent, thin wooden board 20 centimeters long was created. The wood let through more than 90 percent of the visible light spectrum. Since the lignin components were not removed but only converted during this process, the transparent wood retained a high level of strength.

Now that untreated and compressed wood offers itself as an alternative to steel and concrete, transparent wood could not replace glass as a building material in windows, but for the light design of interiors.

Wood from the laboratory

Luis Fernando Velásquez-García from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge thinks one step further if Liangbing Hu and his colleagues transform natural wood into higher-quality building materials. He wants to grow woody plant material in the laboratory.

The first attempts at breeding with cells from zinnia plants were successful. In principle, this material could be layered with 3D printers to form any wood-like structures. But it is not yet possible to foresee whether such printed wooden tables will become a reality in the future.

(bsc)

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