Wood may seem old-school in the era of glass and steel construction. However, a key innovation in transparent wood is on the horizon. This new modified material will revolutionize the concept of energy efficient homes.
Transparent wood, or nanocrystalline cellulose, is produced using processed wood pulp. This material is optically transparent and has high transmittance (nearly 85%). Researchers first developed this material at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.
New Innovation makes Transparent Wood Retain Heat
Initial research uses balsa wood to create the material. Lignin is a component of wood that gives color and strength. The removal of this material makes the wood transparent. Biodegradable acrylic fills in the vestiges left after removal of lignin. Acrylic further adds to the optical properties and structure of the wood composite material. Windows made from this material enable natural lighting and improves energy efficiency.
Latest research demonstrates how adding a polymer helps transparent wood retain heat. Polyethylene glycol, when added to transparent wood, enables it to save higher energy. The material has the property to release energy and turn transparent while solidifying. Furthermore, the polymer permeates well with wood. Different types of polyethylene glycol melt at different temperatures, according to researchers. This helps in tweaking wood’s characteristics according to the application.
Energy Efficiency to be Key Focus in Future Study
The construction industry already uses materials that store and retain heat, but this material is different. This modified transparent wood is a way to provide insulation and reduce energy consumption, say scientists.
Montanari, leading the research, says that the future still has a lot of scope for improving the material. Focus on using a biodegradable alternative is a key factor that needs further study. Making the wood more environmentally sustainable will be an important aspect of the study, too.