Scientists develop transparent wood ‘five times more thermally efficient than glass’

The new material, which uses wood from the fast-growing, low-density balsa tree, proves to be more durable and lighter than glass, according to research

The Big Zero report

Could transparent wood hold the key to a greener and more energy-efficient future?

Junyong Zhu, Researcher of Forest Products Laboratory at the United States Department of Agriculture, along with scientists from the University of Maryland and University of Colorado says yes – together, they have developed a transparent wood material which claims to be five times more thermally efficient than conventional glass.

Transparent wood is created when wood from the fast-growing, low-density balsa tree is treated in an oxidising bath, which bleaches it of nearly all visibility.

After that, the scientific team injected a synthetic polymer called polyvinyl alcohol into the wood. which created a product that is transparent.

The research, which looked at ways to create materials that could contribute to energy efficiency without harming the environment, showed the natural cellulose in its wood structure and energy-absorbing polymer filler in transparent wood help the new material to be more durable and lighter than glass.

Scientists note the ‘transparent wood’ can withstand much stronger impacts than glass and, unlike glass, it bends or splinters instead of shattering.

According to figures, the energy used for regulating building temperatures accounts for 14% of the primary energy consumed in the US – one-quarter of this is leaked through inefficient glass windows in cold weather.

Manufacturing emissions of glass are approximately 25,000 metric tonnes every year.

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