Windows from an opaque material? How does that make sense? Making windows from glass, or a transparent material seems the only logical route. But, scientists have found a way to make the wood transparent and not only does that have energy performance benefits, it also is stronger, more resilient, and costs less to manufacture and to transport. A win-win-win.

Now how to disrupt a very stable industry...

Windows are a key factor in making buildings more energy efficient, by helping to control heat and light levels. For instance, windows that transmit visible light but block infra-red light could reduce the need for air conditioning in buildings. ‘Lighting and air conditioning account for 30-40% of the total energy used in buildings, most of which is exchanged via windows,’ says Yanfeng Gao, one of the authors of the research and a professor at Shanghai University.

Coatings have been developed to make glass windows more energy efficient, but glass is also heavy, fragile and expensive to transport. Although it may not seem an obvious choice, wood could provide an environmentally-friendly solution to these shortcomings, due to its light weight, ready availability, low cost and recyclability.

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