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Will Transparent Wood Replace Glass in Construction?

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

Lars Berglund, a professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH, says that while optically transparent wood has been developed for microscopic samples in the study of wood anatomy, the KTH project introduces a way to use the material on a large scale. the finding was published in the American Chemical Society Journal, Biomacromolecules.

Researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have developed a process to make transparent wood panels. Potential applications for transparent wood include windows, semi-transparent façades and to replace the glass used in solar panels.

The process to make the wood transparent involves taking wood veneer and chemically removing the lignin, which is a complex organic polymer found in plants and helps give trees rigidity and strength. It also gives wood its brownish color. Once the veneer is stripped of lignin, it is impregnated with a transparent polymer to add strength and improve transparency by allowing light to pass through the wood more directly. The polymer used is polymethyl methacrylate, which you probably know better under one of its trade names such as Lucite or Plexiglas. Currently, a 1-millimeter thick strip of the new composite is about 85% transparent. Researchers are working to enhance the transparency and scale up the manufacturing process.



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