Optically transparent wood could be used for solar panels, windows

March 30, 2016
A wood veneer is created in which the lignin, a component of the cell walls, is removed chemically.

Researchers at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden) have developed a new transparent wood material that's suitable for mass production and usable for windows and solar cells and panels.1

The material has a transmittance as high as 85% and a haze of 71%. To make the material, the light-absorbing lignin in a sheet of wood is removed and the wood is impregnated with refractive-index-matched prepolymerized methyl methacrylate (PMMA), a plastic.

Lars Berglund, a professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH, says that while optically transparent wood has been developed for microscopic samples in the study of wood anatomy, the KTH project introduces a way to use the material on a large scale.

"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."

Berglund says transparent wood panels can also be used for windows, and semitransparent facades, when the idea is to let light in but maintain privacy.

Among the work to be done next is enhancing the transparency of the material and scaling up the manufacturing process, Berglund says.

Source: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=162594&CultureCode=en


1. Yuanyuan Li et al., Biomacromolecules, Article ASAP (2016); DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.6b00145

About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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