US researchers produce “windows of tomorrow” out of transparent wood

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has suggested that a type of transparent wood created by the its Forest Products Laboratory in collaboration with researchers from the universities of Colorado and Maryland, could become the "window of tomorrow".

The transparent wood is created by bleaching the balsa wood and mixing it with a synthetic polymer called polyvinyl alcohol, making it virtually transparent.

If used as an alternative to standard window glass, the wood is able to withstand stronger impacts and will bend or splinter instead of shattering.

It would also be five times more thermally efficient than glass, and could be used with existing industrial processing equipment, allowing for an easier transition.

The USDA’s Findings have been published in a paper called "A Clear, Strong, and Thermally Insulated Transparent Wood for Energy Efficient Windows", in the Journal of Advanced Functional Materials.

The technology appears similar to a 2016 creation by Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology (see further reading).

Image courtesy of the USDA Forest Service

Further Reading:

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  1. One thing I have noticed with these transparent woods is that they have to be held very closely to an object, otherwise they are almost translucent. This could make it good for privacy glass of some kind however. Another possible issue is that so far I have only seen very thin examples of this and that could obviously lead to sustainability issues with heat loss.

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