Scientists at the University of Maryland and University of Colorado have created transparent wood derived from the balsa tree, native to South America. This new material is not only stronger, but five-times more thermally efficient than traditional glass. Transparent wood is much more rugged as well, capable of withstanding more damage without bending or splintering. The balsa tree wood was first immersed in a bleach solution at room temperature to remove the light absorbing substance. Read more for two videos and additional information.
To make the wood transparent and low haze simultaneously, the scientists infiltrated the wood template with PVA, which is widely used in composites as it is an environmentally friendly polymer featuring optical transparency. The bonding between the PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) and cellulose in the wood offers more thermal protection.
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Residential building windows in particular account for 10–25% of the heat loss due to their poor thermal management capability. Exploring energy efficient window materials is thus highly desirable to address heating costs, energy shortages, and the global impact of climate change associated with increased carbon emissions,” said the research team.