A group of researchers from the University of Maryland has found a new way to make the tree transparent. In their article published in Science Advances, the group describes their process and its advantages over the old technology.

The transparent tree is an attractive idea that scientists have been working on for some time. Builders consider this material as reinforcement for houses. The fact is that wood is stronger than glass – for example, it will not crack. But, despite great efforts, transparent wood never found commercial use – mainly due to the way it was made.

A common way to make wood transparent involves using chemicals to remove lignin. This process takes a long time, produces a lot of liquid waste, and results in weaker wood. Now scientists have found a way to make the wood transparent without removing the lignin.

The peculiarity of the new process is that lignin is replaced, not removed. The researchers removed the lignin molecules that are involved in creating the wood’s color. They first applied hydrogen peroxide to the surface of the wood and then exposed the treated wood to ultraviolet light (or natural sunlight). Then the wood was soaked in ethanol for further purification. In the final, the scientists filled the pores with clear epoxy to make the wood smooth.

The resulting wood was 50 times stronger than conventional clear wood. In addition, it let 90% of the light through. The researchers found it was stronger and lighter than glass, and also provided better insulation. It can be used for both windows and roofs. Scientists note that wood can theoretically be used to create a completely transparent house – it is so durable that it can be used as a material for load-bearing walls.