In the long history of human development, there has been but one building material to rely on if you were looking for light transmission in the home. Glass, though typical fragile, has been that go-to material. Over the years, this valuable resource has been refined over and over again. Today, they even produce glass that can handle hurricane force winds or handle the impact of a bullet. Despite all the improvements in strength, the one downfall of glass is that it allows for entirely too much heat transmission along with that natural sunlight. This keeps your air conditioner working overtime, and really hurts those monthly power bills. Fortunately, some scientists are looking to tackle this problem by producing transparent wood windows.
According a recent peer-reviewed article from the engineering team over at the University of Maryland, glass may no longer be the only player in town. Using a new technique, these researchers have actually discovered a way to create transparent wood that can be used for windows. If you have ever had a skylight or just large windows in your home, you might already imagine some of the benefits of such technology. Glass gets hot and as the sun moves through the sky during the day, the position of light in the room moves. Through their research, this Maryland research team may have uncovered the ultimate solution to this problem.
To begin the process, scientists bleach and boil the wood, which removes that brown-colored component called lignins. When this is done, the wood is actually much more fragile than its normal state though, and it is hardly transparent enough to use in lieu of glass. After going through this process, they apply a lab-created epoxy to the treated wood. The wood fibers work to soak up the epoxy, and once this dries it results in transparent wood. Thanks to the polymer component, the wood is completely waterproof and it offers a durable structure that can handle more stress than typical wood or glass. But, how does it stack up when looking at light and heat transmission?
As you might imagine, the structure of wood still doesn’t allow for quite the same light transmission as typical glass. Instead, there is a sort of clouding effect that takes place, which means these are really semi-transparent wood windows. Despite this, those who are after the natural light and appreciate privacy could still find these windows to be a welcome addition to the home. Due to this clouding effect, the light that passes through is actually distributed more evenly. According to the research team, this means a better lit room and no worrying about the glare shifting around the room throughout the day. Instead, it will keep the light spread out over the course of the day, resulting in a more consistent light pattern. If you ever watch TV during the day, this should be a welcome idea. More important, the heat transmission is considerably less than glass, which means less of a workout for your air conditioner.