The future of solar energy looks bright, as researchers were able to develop a transparent wood that can be used in solar cells and windows.
Solar energy, with its multitude of benefits, does not come cheap. This is the reason why scientists from KTH Royal Institute of Technology are raving about their new discovery – transparent wood.
"Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it's a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource," said Wallenberg Wood Center professor Lars Berglund. He added that their study, published in Biomacromolecules, has developed a way to produce the material on a mass scale.
"This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells," Berglund said.
The optically transparent wood is a kind of wood veneer without a lignin. A lignin is a cell wall component that when chemically removed from the wood causes the wood to appear white.
The chemical removal of lignin involves impregnating a white porous veneer substrate with a transparent polymer, prepolymerized methyl methacrylate (PMMA), to alter the wood's refractive index.
The process enabled the researchers to come up with a material that is able to achieve light transmittance of up to 85 percent.
Berglund is positive that their latest discovery would create a big impact on solar technology. He believes the material will be most suitable for creating transparent structures on a grander scale, such as solar cells and windows in buildings.
Buildings with glass windows can significantly benefit from this finding as it would give them a cheaper material to use that allows light to pass through while maintaining privacy.
Berglund also believes that wood, with its mechanical properties such as strength and low thermal conductivity, is the most bio-based material ideal for use in buildings.
The researchers are in the process of improving the transparency of the material, maximizing the process of manufacture and experimenting on different types of wood.
In 2015, researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison developed a semiconductor made out of wood in an attempt to help curb the pressing problem of e-waste.