The optically transparent wood is a type of wood veneer that has had its lignin, a component of the cell walls, chemically removed. Lars Berglund, a professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH, explained, “When the lignin is removed, the wood becomes beautifully white. But because wood isn’t not naturally transparent, we achieve that effect with some nanoscale tailoring.”
The findings of the study are detailed in the American Chemical Society journal, Biomacromolecules. It explained, “Optically transparent wood (TW) was prepared by successful impregnation of lumen and the nanoscale cellulose fiber network in the cell wall with refractive-index-matched prepolymerized methyl methacrylate (PMMA). During the process, the hierarchical wood structure was preserved. Optical properties of TW are tunable by changing the cellulose volume fraction. The synergy between wood and PMMA was observed for mechanical properties.”
The lightweight and strong transparent wood, which is suitable for mass production, is being presented as a low-cost option for light-transmitting buildings and transparent solar cell windows.
Although the wood is not as clear glass, its haziness gives a possible advantage for solar cells because it still able to capture light even as it maintains privacy.
Berglund said that he and his team will be working on “enhancing the transparency of the material and scaling up the manufacturing process.”
He added, “We also intend to work further with different types of wood. Wood is by far the most used bio-based material in buildings. It’s attractive that the material comes from renewable sources. It also offers excellent mechanical properties, including strength, toughness, low density, as well as low thermal conductivity.”