MAY 30, 2016 10:36 AM PDT

Scientists Create See-Through Wood

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Wood is an incredible building material - it's all natural and extremely strong. But, wood is susceptible to rotting with moisture and eaten by termites. Wood also blocks light completely.

Now a team from the University of Maryland, College Park has found a way to transform wood into see-through material that's can withstand 10 times more stress and 4 times more strain than normal, untreated wood.

There are 2 phases in creating transparent wood. In the first phase, the wood is bleached and boiled to remove lignan molecules that give wood its distinctive brown color. The process takes minutes for a small piece of wood or up to a whole day for a log. After removing the pigment, the wood is next treated with a strengthening epoxy resin, which seals the wood fibers and makes the wood incredibly tough.

The technique creates stunning wood material that's highly transparent. However, several challenges still remain before we see houses made of clear wood. Mainly, the epoxy substance is not environmentally friendly and engineers would require loads of this stuff to preserve the wood. Another challenge will be in scaling the process up so that large quantities of clear wood can be achieved within a short amount of time.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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