Scientists Just Engineered Transparent Wood

I can see clearly now the "grain" is gone.

5. 18. 16 by Jelor Gallego
University of Maryland
Image by University of Maryland

“Wood” you like to hear something amazing? (sorry, bad pun.)

Researchers from the University of Maryland were able to remove the color and chemicals in a block of wood, making it transparent. This new see-through material turns out to be stronger and more insulating than glass, and it has better biodegradability than plastic.

A block of wood before, left, and after treatment to become transparent. Credit Liangbing Hu

To make the transparent wood, the researchers first boiled the wood in water, sodium hydroxide, and other chemicals for roughly two hours. This removes lignin, the chemical that gives wood its color. They then poured epoxy over the wood that, while making the block less environment-friendly, made the material almost five times stronger.

There are limitations to what this material is capable of, though. The researchers are unable to make blocks of this special material larger than five by five-inches. These range in thickness from paper thin to about a centimeter thick.

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Your next house could be constructed from this eco-friendly material. But first, scientists need thicker wood. Seriously.


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