Leave it to Swedes to come up with truly surprising uses for wood. A new translucent tree-product offers a mind-bending take on one of the world's oldest and most durable building materials. This example expands on processes already used to study tiny samples of wood in labs and, as presented in Science Daily, it might be much more scalable than expected.
The transparent wood was developed by researchers at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and published in the American Chemical Society journal Biomacromolecules.
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In case you aren't already an avid Biomacromolecules reader, the gist is this: they remove the wood's lignin, and toss in a polymer. This creates great light-permeation and boosts strength, while maintaining wood's flexibility and low thermal conductivity. To take advantage of the surprising see-through element, the material is most likely to be implemented as a veneer.
Just a couple cool potential uses include solar cells and as replacement for window glass, harnessing the material's translucency to leverage solar energy actively and passively. Its affordability and scalability remain to be tested, but I'm happy just knowing that the glass house of my dystopian dreams is within reach.