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Wood turned into a clear material stronger than glass

A team of researchers have developed a method of treating wood that turns it into a translucent material.

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KTH/Peter Larsson

It may not be as easy to make as glass, but it's less, dense, stronger, better at insulating, and more biodegradable than plastic. The material is clear wood, and it could be used for everything from solar panels to light-admitting privacy windows, according to Lars Beglund at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH, Sweden.

To make the wood clear, a process detailed in the journal Biomacromolecules, it is treated in a chemical bath to strip away the lignin, the molecule that gives wood its colour. This leaves behind a colourless scaffold, but it's rather soft, so this is treated with a transparent polymer, which gives the material its strength. The team's next step is to scale up the manufacturing process.

The team's research, interestingly, was followed by a very similar research paper by researchers at the University of Maryland, published in the journal Advanced Materials.