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Wood windows? Researchers make breakthrough in transparent wood

An example of the transparent wood developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Peter Larsson

Researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have made a breakthrough in developing transparent wood.

While transparent wood has been used before, such as in computer microchips, this is the first time that it’s been developed for mass production.

We know that you can’t see through wood, but the research team found that by removing the lignin in the wood and then treating it with a transparent polymer, they achieved transparency.

“When the lignin is removed, the wood becomes beautifully white,” said lead researcher Lars Berglund. “But because wood isn’t ┬ánaturally transparent, we achieve that affect with some nanoscale tailoring,” he said.

This optically transparent wood has a lot of promise.

“Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it’s a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource,” Berglund said. “This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells.”

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The wood could also be used for windows as well as for semi-transparent facades which would allow light to come through while allowing privacy.

Berglund said further work will be done in refining the transparency as well as working with various types of wood.

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