Scientists have developed transparent wood that could be used in building materials and would help home and construction owners save money on their artificial lighting costs. The material could also find application in solar cell windows, researchers 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, researchers said.
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, they said. Lars Berglund and colleagues from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden wanted to pursue this possibility.
They removed lignin from samples of commercial balsa wood. Lignin is a structural polymer in plants that blocks 80 to 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, researchers incorporated acrylic, often known as Plexiglass.
They could see through the resulting material, which was twice as strong as Plexiglass. Although the wood is not as crystal clear as glass, its haziness provides a possible advantage for solar cells. Specifically, because the material still traps some light, it could be used to boost the efficiency of these cells, researchers said. The findings were published in the journal Biomacromolecules.