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Scientists Create Transparent Wood, Find Out Its Uses

May 26, 2016 04:54 AM EDT
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Scientists at the University of Maryland at College Park have found a way to make invisible wood come true.

Wood is one of the important materials in building homes and buildings. But what if a traditional wood can turn into more innovative material?

Scientists at the University of Maryland, College Park have been busy working to develop a superior, transparent version of wood for over the past year. Dr. Liangbing Hu of the University's Department of Material Science and Engineering described the wood that they are working on as sturdier than traditional wood. He added this wood can be placed in less "environmentally friendly materials," such as plastics.

Modern urban architecture depends on the use of glass and steel and replacing these materials with transparent. Furthermore, some architect and building owners are considering biodegradable wood that could revolutionize design concepts because these materials may help reduce heating costs and help to lower fuel consumption.

Hu described the process of creating clear wood. First step is to chemically remove the lignin, an organic substance found in vascular plants. Manufacturers of pulp for paper also remove this substance because this is the reason why the yellowish color appears on wood.

The second step is filling the channels, or veins of the wood with an epoxy - this is very important as epoxy serves as strengthening agent, according to Hu.

"These tiny fibers that form the walls of channels, are what makes wood so robust," Hu explained in a report by CNN.

"We don't disturb these channels -- and so for the first time, we can maintain the backbone structure of the wood, and make it transparent, while simultaneously making it stronger," he added.

This is not the first the time that someone made wood transparent. But this is the first time that a group of researchers have produced 10 mm-thick piece of wood, sized 100 mm by 100 mm in area, which is almost completely transparent, according to Quartz.

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