Scientists are pioneering a groundbreaking technology designed to introduce transparent wood as a robust substitute for traditional glass and plexiglass. This innovative material reportedly boasts strength levels 10 times greater than glass and three times superior to plexiglass, making it a promising alternative for various applications, including smartphone screens.
In a detailed report from Scientific American, the efforts of Lars Berglund, a Swedish researcher affiliated with the KTH Institute of Technology, and a dedicated team at the University of Maryland are highlighted. Their focus on transparent wood signifies a potential paradigm shift away from the ubiquitous use of glass in display screens.
While glass has been the default choice for displays, the allure of transparent wood as a display material is captivating. Berglund’s research suggests a bright future for transparent wood, achieved through the modification or removal of lignin from the wood—a glue-like substance responsible for the brown color in trees. The researchers effectively bleached or removed lignin and filled the wood with epoxy resin to achieve transparency.
Berglund and Liangbing Hu, the lead scientist at the University of Maryland, produced multimeter-thick sheets of transparent wood with an impressive light transmittance rate of up to 90%. However, this rate diminishes with increasing wood thickness up to a centimeter. Extensive testing was conducted to ascertain the durability and reliability of transparent wood compared to glass and plexiglass.
The researchers assert that transparent wood holds immense potential as a superior alternative for displays, potentially replacing glass or plastics. Its enhanced durability also opens up possibilities for use in windows, mimicking smart windows that transition between transparency and tinting.
Despite the exciting prospects, concerns linger about the environmental impact of transparent wood, particularly as it involves the use of epoxy resin derived from petroleum. Nonetheless, researchers remain optimistic about finding sustainable alternatives to epoxy resin, paving the way for an era where transparent wood displays could become commonplace in smartphones and other devices.