What you're looking at isn't a piece of plastic, or even a piece of glass. It's actually a piece of wood.
Researchers at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed a brand-new transparent wood that in the future could even provide the windows for your house.
The astonishing new material is a type of wood veneer which was created when the lignin, a component of the cell walls, is removed.
Professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH Lars Berglund explains, "When the lignin is removed, the wood becomes beautifully white. But because wood isn't not naturally transparent, we achieve that effect with some nanoscale tailoring,"
The white wood is then impregnated with a transparent polymer which then transforms the wood into a transparent material.
Along with the conventional applications such as windows, the team have suggested that the new material could herald a new wave of efficient, renewably built solar panels.
"Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it's a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource," Berglund says. "This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells."
"No one has previously considered the possibility of creating larger transparent structures for use as solar cells and in buildings,"
But why choose wood over conventional materials like glass or plastic?
"Wood is by far the most used bio-based material in buildings. It's attractive that the material comes from renewable sources. It also offers excellent mechanical properties, including strength, toughness, low density and low thermal conductivity." he says.
The next steps for the team are to enhance the level of transparency with the material and then eventually scale up the manufacturing process to make it viable for the enormous quantities that would be needed in solar panel production.
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