Transparent wood is expected to replace plastic soon, significantly reducing energy costs

Oct 21 , 2022

A new study conducted by Indian scientists shows that transparent wood has the potential to replace glass or plastic in the manufacture of car windshields, transparent packaging, and biomedical devices. Clear wood is renewable and biodegradable, reducing the ecological impact on the environment. In addition, it is five times more cost effective than glass, thus significantly reducing energy costs. The related research was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.


In light of the increasing amount of single-use plastics that are discarded after use, transparent wood is emerging as one of the most promising alternative materials of the future, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, which currently produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste worldwide each year.


Transparent wood was originally created by German scientist Siegfried Fink in 1992 and has since been improved by other researchers. Transparent wood is made by removing the lignin from the wood and replacing it with a transparent plastic material, a natural biopolymer that supports plant tissue. Unlike plastic, it is biodegradable and non-toxic.


Plastic has been used as a substitute for fragile glass, but our latest research shows that transparent wood is a better alternative," said Prodiyut Dhar, an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology's School of Biochemical Engineering and author of the latest study. Clear wood can replace petroleum-based plastics such as polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, acrylic, and polyethylene, which are harmful to the environment."


The study shows that using sodium chlorite to remove lignin from wood and infiltrating it with epoxy resin to produce clear wood has a much lower environmental impact than the currently widely adopted method of using methacrylate polymers.


Anish Chatos, a researcher at the Institute of Wood Science and Technology in Bangalore, India, said transparent wood has attracted a lot of attention because of its good physical, mechanical and optical properties. He said, "Transparent wood was developed primarily using thin slices of wood that have the same good strength as ordinary wood but are lighter in weight. The incorporation of special materials gives it a variety of advanced properties making it a unique bio-based material that can be used in a variety of applications such as construction, energy storage, flexible electronics and packaging."

*** Translated with (free version) ***


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