Scientists at the University of Maryland, College Park have developed “invisible wood” – a transparent and stronger type of wood.
Since the “invisible” wood is stronger than traditional wood, it can be used to replace materials that are less environmentally friendly like plastics. The transparent wood can also serve as a good alternative for glass.
"Glass windows are a big problem in the summer and winter, they have bad thermal isolation," Dr. Liangbing Hu of the University's Department of Material Science and Engineering told CNN.
Aside From replacing plastics, steel, and glasses, the transparent wood can also help decrease heating costs and fuel consumption.
"If you place the transparent wood in front of a solar cell, the amount of light absorbed will be higher, and efficiency can increase up to 30%," Dr. Hu added.
The first step in creating the transparent wood begins with chemically removing the lignin – an organic substance from vascular plants – from the wood. This will lead to the wood losing its yellowish color and turn white.
The second step involves injecting epoxy into the channels or veins of the wood to make it transparent. This second step also helps make the material stronger and sturdier than the normal type of wood.
Hu and his team are currently searching for extra funding from firms to further develop and expand their important research. They predict that the transparent wood will become available for the public in just a few years. The scientists have already received several inquiries from firms who are interested in developing the “invisible” wood technology in order to make it available for mass production.
"It's exciting. And because the material has been used for a long time, there's already a lot of know-how and manufacturing infrastructure in the wood industry, so this field will develop very quickly,” Hu explained.