Transparent wood composites are novel wood materials which have up to 90% transparency. Some have better mechanical properties than wood itself. They were made for the first time in 1992. These materials are significantly more biodegradable than glass and plastics. Transparent wood is also shatterproof.
A research group led by Professor Lars Berglund from Swedish KTH University along with a University of Maryland research group led by Professor Liangbing Hu have developed a method to remove the color and some chemicals from small blocks of wood, followed by adding polymers, such as poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and epoxy, at the cellular level, thereby rendering them transparent.
Actually those research groups rediscovered a work from Siegfried Fink, a German Researcher, from as early as 1992: with a process very similar to Berglund's and Hu's, the German Researcher turned wood transparent to reveal specific cavities of the wood structure for analytical purpose.
In 2021 researchers reported a way to manufacture transparent wood lighter and stronger than glass that requires substantially smaller amounts of chemicals and energy than methods used before. The thin wood produced with "solar-assisted chemical brushing" is claimed to be lighter and about 50 times stronger than wood treated with previous processes.
In its natural state, wood is not a transparent material because of its scattering and absorption of light. The tannish color in wood is due to its chemical polymer composition of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. The wood's lignin is mostly responsible for the wood's distinctive color. Consequently, the amount of lignin determines the levels of visibility in the wood, around 80–95%. To make wood a visible and transparent material, both absorption and scattering need to be reduced in its production. The manufacturing process of transparent wood is based on removing all of the lignin called the delignification process.
Delignification process edit
The production of transparent wood from the delignification process vary study by study. However, the basics behind it are as follows: a wood sample is drenched in heated (80 °C–100 °C) solutions containing sodium chloride, sodium hypochlorite, or sodium hydroxide/sulfite for about 3–12 hours followed by immersion in boiling hydrogen peroxide. Then, the lignin is separated from the cellulose and hemicellulose structure, turning the wood white and allowing the resin penetration to start. Finally, the sample is immersed in a matching resin, usually PMMA, under high temperatures (85 °C) and a vacuum for 12 hours. This process fills the space previously occupied by the lignin and the open wood cellular structure resulting in the final transparent wood composite.
While the delignification process is a successful method of production, it is limited to its laboratory and experimental production of a small, and low-thickness material that is unable to meet its practical application requirements. However, at Jiangsu Co-Innovation Center for Efficient Processing and Utilization of Forest Resources in 2018, Xuan Wang and his colleagues developed a new production method of infiltrating a prepolymerized methyl methacrylate (MMA) solution into delignified wood fibers. By utilizing this new technique, large-size transparent wood with any thickness or any measure can be easily made. Yet in spite of this success in the manufacture, challenges still exist with regard to mechanical stability and adjustable optical performance.
Wood is a natural growth material that possesses excellent mechanical properties, including high strength, good durability, high moisture content, and high specific gravity. Wood can be classified in two types of wood, softwood and hardwood. While each type is different—e.g., the longitudinal cells in softwood are shorter in length when compared to hardwood—both types have a similar hierarchical structure, meaning the orientation of the cells is identical in the wood. This unique anisotropic structure, the properties with distinctive values when measured in several directions, allows it to pump ions and water for photosynthesis in the wood. Similarly, in transparent wood composites, removing the lignin and maintaining the cellulose fiber tubes it allows it to become a clear wood that can get soaked in a glue-like epoxy that makes it a robust and transparent material. An excellent raw material with high transmittance and enhanced mechanical properties.
Researchers have successfully tested an eco-friendly alternative: limonene acrylate, a monomer made from limonene, into an acrylate. Limonene is a common cyclic terpene that can be extracted from industrial waste, via isomerization of α‐pinene (from wood) or from citrus peel oil. The bio-based polymers can offer advantages compared to conventional non‐renewable polymers from fossil resources, and still retain a high mechanical performance and it is lightweight, stemming from its porous and anisotropic cellulosic structure; and is of great interest for large-scale sustainable nanotechnologies. Succinylation of the delignified wood substrate using succinic anhydride results in a nanostructured and mechanically strong biocomposite. The polymer matrix usually accounts for ≈70 vol%, results in nanostructured biocomposites combining an excellent optical transmittance of 90% at 1.2 mm thickness and a remarkably low haze of 30%, with a high mechanical performance (strength 174 MPa, Young's modulus 17 GPa). 
Mechanical properties edit
Transparent wood derives its mechanical properties and performance primarily from its cellulose fiber content and the geometric orientation of the fiber tube cells (radial and tangential) structure, providing the structural base for the design of advanced materials applications.
One aspect of the transparent wood mechanical property is the strength of the material. According to Zhu and his colleagues, transparent wood in the longitudinal direction has an elastic modulus of 2.37 GPa and strength of 45.38 MPa (both which are lower than for pure PMMA) and twice as high as those perpendicular to the longitudinal direction, 1.22 GPa and 23.38 MPa respectively. They conclude that longitudinal to transverse properties decreased for transparent wood, which they expected as the presence of the polymer resin suppresses the cavity space. Also, the plastic nature of transparent wood composite provides advantages compare to other brittle materials like glass, meaning it does not shatter upon impact.
Optical transmittance and thermal conductivity edit
The transparent wood, tightly packed and perpendicularly aligned cellulose fibers operate as wideband wave-guides with high transmission scattering losses for light. This unique light management capacity results in a light propagation effect. By measuring its optical properties with an integrated sphere, Li and her colleagues found that transparent wood exhibits a high transmittance of 90% (lower than for pure PMMA) and a high optical haze of 95%. As a result, transparent wood as an energy efficient material could be used to decrease the daytime lighting energy usage by efficiently guiding the sunlight into the house while providing uniform and consistent illumination throughout the day.
Similarly, the transparent wood's thermal conductivity is attributed to the alignment of the wood cellulose fibers, which has been preserved after lignin removal and polymer infiltration. Transparent wood has a thermal conductivity of 0.32 W⋅m−1⋅K−1 in the axial direction and 0.15 W⋅m−1⋅K−1 in the radial direction respectably. Based on the study done by Céline Montanari of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the transparent wood's thermal conductivity, which transforms from semi-transparent to transparent when heated, could be used to make buildings more energy-efficient by capturing the sun's energy during the day and releasing it later at night into the interior.
Future application edit
Although the development of transparent wood composites is still at a lab-scale and prototype level, their potential for energy efficiency and operational savings in the building industry are very promising. An essential advantage with transparent wood is its combination of structural and functional performance for load-bearing structures that combine optical, heat-shielding, or magnetic functionalities. Transparent wood is also researched for potential use for touch-sensitive surfaces.
Glazing system edit
Such is the case in building applications where artificial light can be replaced by sunlight through a light transmittance design. Based on research and simulation performed by Joseph Arehart at the University of Colorado Boulder, transparent wood as a glass glazing system replacement could reduce the space conditioning energy consumption by 24.6% to 33.3% in medium (climate zone 3C, San Francisco, CA) and large office spaces (climate zone 4C, Seattle, Washington) respectably. These are relevant insights in transparent wood's potential functionality because it shows lower thermal conductivity and better impact strength compared to popular glass glazing systems.
Solar cells edit
Another direction for transparent wood applications is as a high optical transmittance for optoelectronic devices as substrates in photovoltaic solar cells. Li and her colleagues at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology studied the high optical transmittance that makes transparent wood a candidate for substrate in perovskite solar cells. They concluded that transparent wood has high optical transmittance of 86% and long term stability with fracture of toughness 3.2 MPa⋅m1/2 compared to glass substrate fracture of toughness 0.7–0.85 MPa⋅m1/2, which meets the substrate's requirements for solar cells. These are relevant information for transparent wood's possible application because it is a suitable and sustainable solution to the substrate for solar cell assembly with potential in energy-efficient building applications, as well as replacements for glass and lowering the carbon footprint for the devices.
Transparent wood could transform the material sciences and building industries by enabling new applications such as load-bearing windows. These components could also generate improvements in energy savings and efficiency over glass or other traditional materials. A lot of work and research is needed to understand the interaction between light and the wood structure further, to tune the optical and mechanical properties, and to take advantage of advanced transparent wood composite applications
See also edit
- St. Fluer, Nicholas (13 May 2016). "Wood That Could be Mistaken for Glass". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Scharping, Nathaniel (16 May 2015). "Transparent Wood Is a Surprisingly Versatile Material". Discover. Online. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
- Zhu, Mingwei; Song, Jianwei; Li, Tian; Gong, Amy; Wang, Yanbin; Dai, Jiaqi; Yao, Yonggang; Luo, Wei; Henderson, Doug; Hu, Liangbing (2016-05-04). "Highly Anisotropic, Highly Transparent Wood Composites". Advanced Materials. Wiley. 28 (26): 5181–5187. Bibcode:2016AdM....28.5181Z. doi:10.1002/adma.201600427. ISSN 0935-9648. PMID 27147136. S2CID 21569139.
- "Transparent Wood". www.instructables.com. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
- Li, Yuanyuan; Fu, Qiliang; Yu, Shun; Yan, Min; Berglund, Lars (2016). "Optically Transparent Wood from a Nanoporous Cellulosic Template: Combining Functional and Structural Performance". Biomacromolecules. 17 (4): 1358–1364. doi:10.1021/acs.biomac.6b00145. PMID 26942562.
- KTH The Royal Institute of Technology (30 Mar 2016). "Wood windows? Transparent wood material used for buildings, solar cells". Science Daily. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
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- Fink, Siegfried (1992-01-01). "Transparent Wood – A New Approach in the Functional Study of Wood Structure". Holzforschung. 46 (5): 403–408. doi:10.1515/hfsg.19220.127.116.113. ISSN 1437-434X. S2CID 94219723.
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- Xia, Qinqin; Chen, Chaoji; Li, Tian; He, Shuaiming; Gao, Jinlong; Wang, Xizheng; Hu, Liangbing (1 January 2021). "Solar-assisted fabrication of large-scale, patternable transparent wood". Science Advances. 7 (5): eabd7342. Bibcode:2021SciA....7.7342X. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abd7342. ISSN 2375-2548. PMC 7840122. PMID 33571122.
- Li, Yuanyuan; Vasileva, Elena; Sychugov, Ilya; Popov, Sergei; Berglund, Lars (2018). "Optically Transparent Wood: Recent Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges". Advanced Optical Materials. 6 (14): 1800059. doi:10.1002/adom.201800059. ISSN 2195-1071.
- Yaddanapudi, Haritha Sree; Hickerson, Nathan; Saini, Shrikant; Tiwari, Ashutosh (2017-12-01). "Fabrication and characterization of transparent wood for next generation smart building applications". Vacuum. 146: 649–654. Bibcode:2017Vacuu.146..649Y. doi:10.1016/j.vacuum.2017.01.016. ISSN 0042-207X.
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- Mosher, Dave. "Scientists made see-through wood that is cooler than glass". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
- "Citrus derivative makes transparent wood 100 percent renewable".
- Montanari, C.; Ogawa, Y.; Olsén, P.; Berglund, L. A. (2021). "High Performance, Fully Bio‐Based, and Optically Transparent Wood Biocomposites". Advanced Science (Weinheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany). 8 (12). doi:10.1002/advs.202100559. PMC 8224414. PMID 34194952.
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- Li, Tian; Zhu, Mingwei; Yang, Zhi; Song, Jianwei; Dai, Jiaqi; Yao, Yonggang; Luo, Wei; Pastel, Glenn; Yang, Bao; Hu, Liangbing (2016-08-11). "Wood Composite as an Energy Efficient Building Material: Guided Sunlight Transmittance and Effective Thermal Insulation". Advanced Energy Materials. 6 (22): 1601122. doi:10.1002/aenm.201601122. ISSN 1614-6832. S2CID 99009296.
- Davis, Nicola (2019-04-03). "Scientists invent 'transparent wood' in search for eco-friendly building material". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
- Li, Yuanyuan; Fu, Qiliang; Yang, Xuan; Berglund, Lars (2018-02-13). "Transparent wood for functional and structural applications". Philosophical Transactions. Series A, Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences. 376 (2112): 20170182. doi:10.1098/rsta.2017.0182. ISSN 1471-2962. PMC 5746562. PMID 29277747.
- "Transparent wood: the building material of the future?". phys.org. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
- Arehart, Joseph (2017-01-01). "Energy Performance Analysis of Transparent Wood Composite-Based Glazing Systems in Commercial Buildings". Civil Engineering Graduate Theses & Dissertations.
- Li, Yuanyuan; Cheng, Ming; Jungstedt, Erik; Xu, Bo; Sun, Licheng; Berglund, Lars (2019-03-18). "Optically Transparent Wood Substrate for Perovskite Solar Cells". ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. 7 (6): 6061–6067. doi:10.1021/acssuschemeng.8b06248. ISSN 2168-0485. PMC 6430497. PMID 30918764.
Further reading edit
- Fink, S. (1992). "Transparent Wood; A New Approach in the Functional Study of Wood Structure". Holzforschung-International Journal of the Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Technology of Wood. 46(5), 403–408. Chicago. doi:10.1515/hfsg.1918.104.22.1683
- Berglund, L., et al. (2018). "Bioinspired Wood Nanotechnology for Functional Materials". Advanced Materials, 30(19), 1704285. doi:10.1002/adma.201704285
- Zhu, H., et al. (2014). "Transparent paper: fabrications, properties, and device applications". Energy & Environmental Science, 7(1), 269–287. doi:10.1039/c3ee43024c