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Sustainnovation - Transparent Wood

Sustainnovation By Sophie Simpson, Associate Engineer, Sustainability – 20 July 2022

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Sophie Simpson

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This blog is part of our Sustainnovation series.

Sustainnovation is an exhibition (both physical and digital) of some of the most sustainable and innovative products coming onto the market at the moment. Our engineers and designers have carefully selected products that they feel will help us, and the planet, achieve our sustainable goals.

Transparent wood

Transparent wood is an eco-friendly alternative for use in engineering applications, such as transparent panels. It can be used for energy-saving purposes, such as heat-storage, thermal insulation, and controlled use of natural light. Transparent wood is also an aesthetic material with many possible applications in interior design.

Transparent wood was first introduced in 2016, when scientists identified methods for removing light-absorbing lignin and replacing it with a resin material. Unfortunately, the process required the use of environmentally harmful chemicals which also weakened the wood. Researchers have now successfully tested an eco-friendly alternative made using citrus waste (such as peel) produced by the orange juice industry. The material is made with no solvents and all chemicals are derived from bio-based raw materials.

Timber is a naturally renewable material and - provided it is used in a managed way - will not deplete the world’s finite resources. Choosing to build with timber where appropriate instead of more ‘energy-hungry’ materials such as concrete and steel can reduce the amount of embodied carbon associated with that building. Transparent wood is also stronger and lighter than glass, contributing to reductions in building time and waste.

Samples of transparent wood are currently on display in our Edinburgh office.

Manufacturers: KTH Royal Institute of Technology - Stockholm, Sweden

KTH Royal Institute of Technology is one of Europe’s leading technical and engineering universities. Within the Department of Fibre and Polymer Technology, the Biocomposites Division focuses on the nanostructural aspects of biocomposites including native materials (such as wood) and renewable resources such as nanocellulose and nanochitin.

For more on the material research and use, please see the KTH resources here.

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