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Transparent wood, an eco-friendly alternative to glass?

Date: 16-Apr-19
Author: Becca Campbell

Transparent wood provides all the properties of glass and plastic in terms of transparency, but is more environmentally friendly.

Transparent wood provides all the properties of glass and plastic in terms of transparency, but is more environmentally friendly.

Scientists have created a new building material that provides an eco-friendly alternative to plastic and glass. Transparent wood has been created out of the desire for efficient building materials that can replace less-sustainable ones.

Compared to mainstream construction materials, transparent wood offers impressive energy-efficiency in homes. It provides strong infrastructure, while not compromising the ability to store and release heat. The resulting benefits are a reduction of energy consumption at home, and a lower energy bill at the end of the month.

The product challenges conventinal glass windows, which can transmit heat and illuminate a room but remain inefficient when it comes to energy storage. Conversely, transparent wood maintains the thermal resistance properties of wood that makes it ideal for energy and carbon storage.

Céline Montanari, current Ph.D. student who represents the project, met with the American Chemical Society to discuss the research. She explained the unique thermal-insulating properties of the transparent wood, being able to store and release energy more effectively. The researchers also argue that since the wood is biodegradable, it is easier to dispose of compared with traditional building materials.

How exactly is transparent wood made possible? Production of the material requires a few untraditional steps. Lignin, an important component of wood’s durability and light-absorbing abilities, is removed. Acrylic then replaces the pores of the removed lignin in order to reduce light-scattering. This allows the wood to bare heavy loads. Even though acrylic is non-biodegradable and water-repellent, it benefits the material by restoring the strong infrastructure of the wood.

Recently, the acrylic has been mixed with the polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG), made to increase efficiency of energy capture. Crucial to the heat-absorbing aspect of the wood, PEG helps to maintain a stable temperature within a home.

Timber, when responsibly sourced, can be the perfect alternative for building materials. Wood products are environmentally sustainable in their natural ability to store carbon and promote low-carbon lifestyles. Transparent wood takes the benefits of timber one step further, with its unique thermal-insulation abilities.


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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Becca                                             Campbell
Author: Becca Campbell

Becca joined the Planet Ark team as a marketing communications intern in March 2019. She currently studies at Boston University, pursuing Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Marine Science. With a passion for ocean conservation, she hopes to cast an optimistic light on impactful environmental actions.

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