Latest Swedish Research
Seeing Through Wood
By removing lignin from a piece of balsa wood and infusing it with a transparent plastic polymer, researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have created a nano modified transparent wood that can be mass produced to replace glass in windows, façades and solar cells.
Low Cost for Large Surfaces
According to KTH Professor, Lars Berglund, “Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it’s low-cost, readily available and renewable. This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells”
While no one has previously considered the possibility of creating larger transparent structures for use as solar cells and in buildings, Berglund considers that transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it’s low-cost, readily available and renewable. In his view this becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells.
Large Structures Possible
The Wallenberg Wood Science Centre at KTH reckons that, although “optically transparent” wood had been produced in microscopic samples, the KTH project introduces a way to use the material on a greater scale, and for large structures.
Windows & Facades
Berglund said panels of transparent or translucent wood could also be used for windows and façades where some privacy was required.
How it's made
The clear wood is formed by removing lignin, one of its basic chemical components. “When the lignin is removed, the wood becomes beautifully white,” Berglund said. “But because wood is not naturally transparent, we achieve that effect with some nanoscale tailoring,”
In the experiment, the lignin of a sample of balsa wood was replaced with a transparent plastic polymer and the optical properties of the two were matched. The resulting material was twice as strong as Plexiglass.
Among the work to be done next is enhancing the transparency of the material and scaling up the manufacturing process, as well as experimenting with other types of wood.
In the view of NEF energy specialist, Federico Seguro, “The construction industry continues to wrestle with pinpointing and bridging the gap between the design of buildings and their ‘as-built’ performance; a gap that exists across all building sectors.”
As the construction industry changes to embrace new methods, one sector is already leading the way, providing builders with a new workforce and new, innovative ideas, to meet its needs – Timber Engineering. Timber Frame and related systems, like SIP’s and CLT, are now well established and reliable ways of doing this. However, engagement of timber frame designers and manufacturers at the earliest possible stage is essential to capture all the benefits this holds for developers, builders and home owners.
Professionals Increasingly Turning to Timber
As a good natural insulator - timber can help minimise or avoid cold bridging and internal condensation as well as assisting with construction sequencing to save significantly on time, effort and costs. To achieve this many architects and builders are turning to timber engineering firms able to interpret and deliver properly ‘sustainable solutions’ to secure high quality, factory produced elements and deliver better value in their projects.