You don't need X-ray vision to take a peek inside this block of wood.
Researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, have come up with a way to pull color and chemicals away from a block of linden wood to make it transparent, according to Engadget.
The resulting material is biodegradable, and considerably stronger and more insulating than glass.
Researchers say the see-through wood could also one day be used in windows, tables and other building materials.
"We were very surprised by how transparent it could go," said Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the university who wrote a paper about the project in the journal Advanced Materials. "This can really open applications that can potentially replace glass and some optical material."
Hu, also a member of the Maryland NanoCenter and the university's Energy Research Center, and his team were able to make the wood transparent by boiling the block in water and sodium hydroxide, as well as other chemicals for about two hours.
A molecule known as lignin, which gives wood its rigid and dark color, was removed during the process. However, colorless cell structures were left behind.
The block of wood is then covered with epoxy, making it four to five times stronger and transparent. However, the technique makes the wood less environmentally-friendly.
Treated wood retains its structure and natural channels, which can use light the same way it moves nutrients around as part of a plant.
"In traditional material the light gets scattered," Hu said. "If you have this waveguide effect with wood, more light comes into your house."
The process can currently only be done on five- by five-inch blocks of wood, which can fit in your hand, ranging in thickness from paper-thin to a centimeter thick. Dr. Hu and the university team has yet to make the technique work on larger wood blocks.
The researchers are currently working on scaling the process to make larger blocks.
Hu's team isn't the only group to use a technique to create transparent wood, according to Engadget.
Scientists in Sweden were able to use a similar two-stage process to replace the visible pulp with a transparent polymer.