Transparent wood made stronger than glass by applying epoxy

May 19, 2016 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: Advanced Materials (2016). DOI: 10.1002/adma.201600427

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers at the University of Maryland has taken the idea of making wood transparent one better, by making it stronger than glass and thus more useful for a variety of applications. In their paper published in the journal Advanced Materials, the team describes the process they have developed for making transparent wood stronger and why they believe it might be useful in solar panel development.

Making wood transparent was already reported last month by a team in Sweden, who found that it could be done by boiling pieces of wood in water, and a few other chemicals for approximately two hours to remove the lignin that gives wood its color. Afterwards, they applied a transparent polymer to give the resulting product back some of the resilience it lost when the lignin was removed. In this new effort, the researchers used approximately the same technique to remove the , but then coated it with an epoxy to make the wood even stronger—stronger they report, than glass (and it is a better insulator), and it will biodegrade much better than plastic.

As the team notes, treating wood does not destroy the channels in it that were originally used by the tree it came from to carry water. After treatment, the channels are able to carry , a very useful property that might lead to transparent wood being used as a way to funnel more light to solar panels—testing has shown that as much as 90 percent of the light shone on it could pass through. It also means the wood is able to scatter light, which could make it useful as a privacy window—light could come through, but those passing by outside would not be able to make out the forms of people inside.

The researchers believe their product might also prove useful in automobiles, because it is so light, or as building blocks in other applications, or even in optical equipment because it is so inexpensive to make. Before that can happen, though, more work needs to be done, because the current process only works on small pieces of —the test material was just five by five inches in area and only a centimeter thick.

Explore further: Wood windows? Swedes develop transparent wood material for buildings and solar cells

More information: Mingwei Zhu et al. Highly Anisotropic, Highly Transparent Wood Composites, Advanced Materials (2016). DOI: 10.1002/adma.201600427

Abstract
For the first time, two types of highly anisotropic, highly transparent wood composites are demonstrated by taking advantage of the macro-structures in original wood. These wood composites are highly transparent with a total transmittance up to 90% but exhibit dramatically different optical and mechanical properties.

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10 comments

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betterexists
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2016
If it is NOT heavy, we can get into it & walk into a forest without being attacked by Wild Animals!
OdinsAcolyte
5 / 5 (3) May 19, 2016
Lighter and stronger than glass. I can conceive all sorts of uses for transparent wood.
Great idea gentlemen. Highly useful. Kudos.
The engineers shall honor your names.
dan42day
5 / 5 (4) May 19, 2016
But can you use it to build an aquarium large enough to hold a whale and light enough to carry on a spacecraft?
epoxy
May 19, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Tektrix
not rated yet May 19, 2016
Guessing this stuff could make a pretty nasty fire.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) May 19, 2016
But can you use it to build an aquarium large enough to hold a whale and light enough to carry on a spacecraft?

That's only with transparent aluminum...
ab3a
5 / 5 (3) May 19, 2016
Those who live in wood houses shouldn't throw stones?
ab3a
5 / 5 (2) May 19, 2016
How does glass perform in relation to strength or brittleness?
antigoracle
not rated yet May 19, 2016
coated it with an epoxy

Hmm...so how much stronger and transparent is the epoxy by itself.
mcglynn_james
not rated yet May 19, 2016
Controlling the photosynthetic process channels & pigmentation complexes could be cool idea to play around with. Especially with electrokinetic phenomena and piezo-bio effects.

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