During the next few decades, worldwide construction activity is forecasted to increase to support the growth of major markets. In order to minimize the damage from the construction activity, developers and designers are looking for more environmentally friendly products, including this new, transparent wood that can make projects more energy efficient.

Scientists have created transparent wood that can absorb and release heat. This wood could one day be used in the construction industry to make eco-friendly buildings, researchers presenting their findings at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition said.

In 2016, a team led by Lars Berglund from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm announced it had developed a type of transparent wood. The research team removed a component from the cell walls of balsa wood that absorbs light and then incorporated acrylic into the wood to make it transparent. Like most woods, it could bear heavy loads, making it a promising material for construction.

“Wood is a renewable and abundant material that has been used for centuries as building material,” Céline Montanari, a researcher on the project, told Newsweek. “It has many advantages, including excellent mechanical performance, low density and excellent thermal insulation properties when compared with glass.

“However, it cannot be used as light-transmitting material as it is. In a perspective of reducing artificial lighting in buildings and developing new functional wood-based material, we chemically modified wood to make it transparent without losing the mechanical properties. This suggests that it can be used for light-transmitting structures, such as windows, with the advantage of being much more insulating than glass.”

Building on this research, the team then set out to improve the performance of the wood so it could absorb and emit heat—allowing it to save costs on energy if it were to be used as a building material. To do this they added polyethylene glycol (PEG) to the wood they had previously developed.

Read More