SCIENCE

Scientists Create Wood That Looks Like Glass, But Stronger

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • May, 18, 2016, 08:06 AM
Tags : science, news
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Transparent Wood
(Photo : Getty Image/Thomas Lohnes) Researchers have now engineered a block of wood that is completely transparent.

Wood is generally an opaque color, but researchers have now engineered a block of wood that is completely transparent.

Researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, have engineered a way to remove certain chemicals and coloring away from a block of linden wood in order to make it appear transparent, according to Engadget.

The new wooden block is biodegradable, and while it strongly resembles glass - it is considerably stronger with more insulating properties, writes Tech Times.

Researchers believe the clear wood could also one day be used in the creation of windows, tables materials used for building.

"We were very surprised by how transparent it could go," Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University, told the New York Times.

"This can really open applications that can potentially replace glass and some optical material," he added.

Hu and his team created the transparent by boiling the block in a mixture of water, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals for about two hours.

A molecule known as lignin, which is responsible for the color of wood, was removed during the process leaving colorless structures behind.

The researchers covered the wooden block with epoxy, resulting in four to five times its original strength and transparency. But this method means the wood is less environmentally friendly.

Treated wood is able to use light to transport nutrients - like it would as a plant - as it still retains its structure and natural channels.

Treated wood retains its structure and natural channels, which can use light the same way it moves nutrients around as part of a plant.

"In traditional material the light gets scattered," Hu told the New York Times. "If you have this waveguide effect with wood, more light comes into your house."

Researchers have only successfully used the process on five- by five-inch blocks of wood ranging in thickness from paper-thin to a centimeter thick.

The researchers are attempting to scale the process to make larger transparent blocks.

However the team led by Hu is not the first to create a method resulting in transparent wood, writes Engadget.

Scientists in Sweden have used a similar two-stage process to create a transparent polymer.

The current study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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