What is most needed right now is evolving human consciousness. Without that, science, technology, development, everything will go waste. – Jaggi Vasudev
At the brim of the world, we only see advancements and keep scoring for the future we deserve. However, we overlook the effect of technology development in a world with inclusion and consciousness. Sustainable consumption is no more a target, it's constantly in our minds, and many people (from innovators, scientists to researchers) are finding ways to either use resources sustainably or find solutions to the problems of humanity (pollution generated). The trees that keep our ecosystem balanced also have relieved us from the effects of pollution in more than just one way.
The article below will give you an insight into a recent discovery made by Junyong Zhu, a Forest Products Laboratory Researcher with a few of his colleagues. They have devised a way to convert transparent wood material from trees to replace glass in various industries. How bright is the idea of replacement, and what is the impact on the future of businesses?
The Journal of Advanced Functional Materials published the researchers' discovery and called it "a clear, strong and thermally insulated transparent wood for energy-efficient windows." One can create transparent wood material using balsa wood from one of the lowest density trees. Firstly, we must place the woods at room temperature and oxidize them. This process bleaches the wood and gets rid of the denseness. Lastly, a solution of polyvinyl alcohol is poured into the material, thereby giving it a glass texture.
Your curiosity may spur your intellect to question the very existence of this discovery, i.e., why wood? Well, the answer is production. The main component of wood is cellulose which is produced at a rate of about twenty times the volume of steel. Wood is also one of the most convenient tools/stationery our ancestors have accepted using for various purposes like construction of houses, ships, luxury items, and a source of fuel for burning. But with time, we have resorted to glass and plastic, especially for windows, as they can provide stiffness when toughened. But buildings have proved that glass does not insulate well with single glazing, and refining it is energy-intensive.
The components of wood- cellulose and lignin make it opaque, and the earlier experiments weren't successful in bringing visibility within the wood. Researchers were involved in removing lignin through chemical compounds that were a threat to the ecosystem and weakened the wood's properties. Finally, they used a simple chemical- hydrogen peroxide (safer) that successfully modified the chromophores in lignin, breaking off the wood coloring process. This bleaching, as mentioned above, creates transparent wood material.
Old Vs. New
The finding has given us hope to create a pollution-free future. Glass is one of the most prominent materials used in several industries, mainly in construction. However, it is estimated that glass manufacturing creates a heavy carbon footprint and has the least thermal efficiency. Additionally, it is expensive, and manufacturing consumes more energy. The new transparent wood material, on the other hand, is economical, eco-friendly, more sturdy and thermally efficient.
The property of conventional glass makes it an unfit product as it captures heat during summers and releases it in winter. The transparent wood material is adaptable to industry cutting standards, is energy-efficient, has high optical transmittance, clarity and low thermal conductivity. Another disadvantage of glass is it cannot sustain natural accidents like low magnitude earthquakes, heavy rainfall, etc., but wood can hold itself intact. It is one of the most potent products that can bring us environmental benefits soon.
How Far From Practical Use?
The discovery though impressive, still isn't ready for practical operation. The transformation process to transparent wood material needs to be optimized and automated. There are also a few downfalls to this finding. Each part of the wood gets developed in a different time span, and they rely on the conditions of moisture content, temperature and other factors like splits and knots. Hence it could be an issue for mass production. Secondly, if the epoxy resin is used to harden wood, it cannot be claimed as an environment-friendly process.
These pointers do create hiccups in the whole process of experimentation; however, researchers, as conscious consumers, are doing their best to make it a possibility very soon.
The Bright Future
The great news here is that the whole process of making transparent wood material is unembellished and retains the mechanical properties of the wood. The future looks bright as the wood transformation can easily replace glass in many industries. In addition to its varying usage, we can beautify the material for home interiors and a commercial setting. That day isn't far when you will be chilling at home or a café with transparent wooden windows.
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