Researchers at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed a new transparent wood material that is deemed quite perfect for mass production.
Could it be possible? Having windows and solar panels made of wood?
Lars Berglund, a professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH, explained in a press release that 'transparent wood' is a good material for solar cells, since it's a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource. "It has excellent mechanical properties, including strength, toughness, low density and low thermal conductivity," according to Berglund. All these properties are quite perfect when one considers the large surfaces solar panels usually cover. But 'transparent wood' could also be used for windows and semitransparent facades.
Explaining the process, Berglund said that when the lignin is removed, the wood becomes beautifully white, but since the wood isn't naturally transparent, that see-right-throught-it effect is achieved by applying a little bit of chemistry. According to Berglund, "the white porous veneer substrate is impregnated with a transparent polymer and the optical properties of the two are then matched." And that is something no one has ever tried to do before.
Future plans include working with different types of wood, enhancing the transparency of the material and scaling up the manufacturing process, so we're pretty sure we'll hear again soon from these guys!