When you are building your next home and it comes time to choose windows, you may very well have to make a choice between glass or wood. Researchers at the University of Maryland have discovered a method to create incredibly strong and transparent wooden windows. Didn’t think wood could be made clear? Check out the video below to see how it’s done.
Developed by Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland, the team uses a patented process to turn the wood translucent and increase its durability, according to Science Alert. More of technical specifications of why wooden windows are better than glass can be found below.
“The most commonly used daylight harvesting material, glass, has limited light management capability and poor thermal insulation. For the first time, transparent wood is introduced as a building material with the following advantages compared with glass: (1) high optical transparency over the visible wavelength range (>85%); (2) broadband optical haze (>95%), which can create a uniform and consistent daylight distribution over the day without glare effect; (3) unique light guiding effect with a large forward to back scattering ratio of 9 for a 0.5 cm thick transparent wood; (4) excellent thermal insulation with a thermal conductivity around 0.32 W m−1 K−1 along the wood growth direction and 0.15 W m−1 K−1 in the cross plane, much lower than that of glass (≈1 W m−1 K−1)” ~ Tian Li
Glass is pretty fragile, and while clear wood may not sound like it can beat out glass on the durability scale, its impact absorption capabilities practically make it indestructible in comparison, according to Business Insider. In the video above, the team even hits the translucent wooden piece with a hammer to prove just how much of a beating it can take.
[Image Source: Maryland NanoCenter]
The process to create wooden windows isn’t as complicated as you may think. the wood is first soaked in lye (sodium hydroxide), which removes the lignin. Removing the lignin takes out the brown color and also removes the ability for the wood to be broken down by insects. This process is essentially bleaching the wood to transparency. After the wood is made translucent, it is soaked and coated in epoxy to solidify the bonds and make its structure more pronounced. The end result can be compared to frosted glass, and through further development, it could see many applications in the construction industry.