Researchers are making strides in developing transparent wood as a stronger and more durable alternative to glass and plexiglass. Transparent wood is said to be 10 times stronger than glass and 3 times stronger than plexiglass, making it a viable option for various applications, including smartphone screens.
A report from the journal Scientific American highlights the work of Lars Berglund, a Swedish researcher, as well as a team of researchers at the University of Maryland who are working on transparent wood. While glass has been the go-to material for displays, transparent wood presents an enticing alternative.
Berglund, who is affiliated with the KTH Institute of Technology in Sweden, has been researching the potential of transparent wood and its various applications. The process of making wood transparent involves modifying or removing lignin, a glue-like substance that gives wood its brown color and holds the cells responsible for transporting water and nutrients throughout the tree.
The researchers achieved transparency by bleaching or removing the lignin from the wood and then filling it with epoxy resin. The resulting transparent wood sheets, which can be several millimeters thick, boast up to 90% light transmittance. However, as the thickness of the wood increases up to a centimeter, the transmittance rate decreases.
Extensive tests were conducted to determine the durability and reliability of transparent wood compared to glass and plexiglass. The researchers found that transparent wood could potentially be a superior alternative for displays and windows due to its enhanced durability. Transparent windows made from this material could mimic smart windows, offering both transparency and the ability to be tinted.
One concern regarding transparent wood is its environmental impact, as it currently relies on epoxy resin, a petroleum-derived plastic product. However, the researchers remain optimistic about finding a sustainable alternative to epoxy resin. Once this is achieved, the era of transparent wood displays in smartphones and other devices may become a reality.
In conclusion, researchers are making significant progress in developing transparent wood as a stronger and more durable alternative to glass and plexiglass. With ongoing research and the potential for sustainable alternatives to epoxy resin, transparent wood could soon revolutionize the display industry and offer a more environmentally friendly option for various applications.