Revolutions Ahead in Architecture and Electronics
June 21, 2017, Marianna Mäki-Teeri
Last year two research groups, from the University of Maryland and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, almost simultaneously introduced chemical solutions capable of removing the molecules that provide wood its colour. The end result is a transparent glass-like wood you can see through. In many ways, wood is a preferable material compared to its existing transparent rivals, such as glass and plastic. Don’t be surprised if this renewed traditional material rapidly revolutionises architecture and electronics.
There would be several benefits for preferring wood over glass in architecture. Wood has lower thermal conductivity which would help to keep a building at more consistent temperature and make it easier to reach higher energy efficiency.
Wood also has good mechanical properties, such as strength, toughness and low density, which makes it even more attractive replacement for glass. The potential of transparent wood is not only in construction; it can also transform electronics.
For example, it could be used to manufacture solar cells as suggested by Lars Berglund, the lead researcher from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. As a low-cost, readily available and renewable material it could be a potential solution for building solar panels, especially for large surfaces.
In March, a research team led by Elena Vasileva has already introduced another interesting application, a transparent wood laser. Entirely organic lasers could be created by embedding an organic dye into transparent wood. Their newly developed wood-dye material has optical properties which can be even implemented further to enhance biophysics or sustainable illumination.
Transparent wood can create completely new markets for wood industry, and its applications replace materials used in several fields. Best of all, it can mean that we can have bio-based alternatives for current materials created from non-renewable sources. Both research teams believe, we don’t need to wait long before the rapid success of this great material will begin.
While waiting for transparent wood to become commercially available, the process is so simple you can even create some samples at home. By following these DIY video instructions, you can already see through wood yourself!