New Transparent Wood is Stronger Than Glass

As custom home builders, the team here at ALC Contractors is always looking for the latest innovations in the home building and home remodeling industry, and we recently came across an article of interest.

Researchers at the University of Maryland were able pull away color and chemicals from a block of wood to leave it impressively see-through. The new material is both stronger and more insulating than glass, with better biodegradability than plastic. "We were very surprised by how transparent it could go," said Liangbing Hu, who wrote about the project in Advanced Materials.

Hu's team isn't the only group that's developed a technique for transparent wood –Swedish researchers have also been able to clear out the visible pulp, replacing it with a transparent polymer. The treatment techniques appear pretty similar: it's a two-stage process.

The researchers first boiled the wood in water, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals for roughly two hours. This flushes out lignin, the molecule responsible for giving wood its color. The team then poured epoxy over the block, making the wood four to five times stronger, although it makes it all a little less environmentally-friendly in the process.

But we won’t be using the material for building just yet, due to size limitations. Five by five-inch wood blocks are as large as they've been able to make it work, ranging in thickness from paper thin to about a centimeter thick -- far more substantial than what Swedish researchers have shown off so far. Dr. Hu and the University of Maryland scientists are still working to scale it up further.

ALC Contractors are custom home builders and home remodeling contractors serving central Maryland, including Baltimore County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County and surrounding areas. Call us today at 410-356-7300 to schedule a consultation.