Image: University of Maryland and Advanced Energy Materials

In brief: Windows made out of transparent wood could provide better energy efficiency and more consistent natural light than glass, according to a new US study.

Transparent wood is a novel material made by chemically removing lignin from wood, and then adding materials to increase strength.

Researchers from the University of Maryland found their transparent wood provided better thermal insulation than glass and let in almost as much light at glass, though without any glare – providing more uniform and consistent indoor lighting.

“[The wood] is very transparent, but still allows for a little bit of privacy because it is not completely see-through,” lead author Tian Li said. “We also learned that the channels in the wood transmit light with wavelengths around the range of the wavelengths of visible light, but that it blocks the wavelengths that carry mostly heat.”

The cell structure that remained in the wood was responsible for creating “haze”, making the light more comfortable for eyes and more uniform.

“This means your cat would not have to get up out of its nice patch of sunlight every few minutes and move over,” Li said. “The sunlight would stay in the same place. Also, the room would be more equally lighted at all times.”

The process of creating transparent wood makes it waterproof, and the cell structure is resistant to shattering, unlike glass.

The research has been published in Advanced Energy Materials.

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  1. I somehow doubt this. I’m old enough to remember illuminated ceilings, and the unmitigated glare disaster they were.