Research

In the future, buildings will be built of transparent wood. Technologies are ready!

Wood may seem more suitable forcozy house, rather than for modern architecture, however, specially treated type of wood can be a fashionable building material of tomorrow. Scientists have reported on the creation of a new type of transparent wood, which not only transmits light, but also absorbs and emits heat, which in theory can reduce energy costs. This material can withstand heavy loads and decomposes over time - important properties in the modern world.

Transparent wood: the material of the future?

"Back in 2016, we showed that transparentWood has excellent thermal insulation properties compared to glass, as well as high light transmittance, ”says Celine Montanari, who presented her design. "In this work, we tried to reduce the energy consumption of the building by introducing material that can absorb, store, and release heat."

As the economy grows around the world,energy consumption is constantly increasing. Most of this energy is used for lighting, heating and cooling homes, offices and other buildings. Glass windows can transmit light, contributing to the lighting and heating of houses, but they do not accumulate energy that can be used after sunset.

Three years ago lead researcher LarsBerglund from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, reported creating optically transparent wood in the journal Biomacromolecules. Scientists have made this material by removing the light absorbing component - lignin - from the balsa tree cell walls. To reduce light diffusion, they incorporated acrylic into the porous wood structure. The team could see through this material, but it was muddy enough to ensure the confidentiality of the construction of large objects. Transparent wood also has pleasant mechanical properties that allow it to withstand heavy loads.

Based on this work, Montanari and Berglundadded a polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG) to the delignified wood. They chose PEG because of its ability to accumulate heat, and also because of properties similar to wood. In Stockholm there is a very old ship called the Vaza, and previously scientists used PEG to stabilize the ship’s wood - PEG can penetrate very deep into the cells of a tree.

PEG is a material with a phase transition,being solid in its normal state, it begins to melt at a temperature of 26 degrees, releasing energy in the process. The melting point can be adjusted using different types of PEG. “On a sunny day, the material will absorb heat before it penetrates inside and will be cooler inside than outside. At night, the opposite will happen: PEG will harden and release heat indoors, so that the temperature will be maintained constantly. ”

The group concluded the PEG in delignifiedwooden frame, which prevented the leakage of the polymer during the phase transition. They also added acrylic to the material to protect it from moisture. As before, the modified wood was transparent, but slightly muddy, and durable, and could also accumulate heat.

Scientists note that transparent woodhas the potential to become more environmentally friendly than other building materials, such as plastic, concrete and glass. In addition to its ability to store heat, transparent wood can be more easily utilized after it has completed its task. PEG and wood both decompose over time. The only part that is not biodegradable is acrylic, but it can also be replaced with another bio-based polymer.

It would be great to see in the future organic buildings from transparent wood, is not it? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.