Transparent Wood Transforming Architecture


Rachel Riddle – Week 7

The quest to discover or invent new materials and technology for sustainability is endless, but what if the solutions lie within already used and discovered materials? Adjusting existing materials to exhibit new unexpected properties is a direction many researchers are going, and one Swedish researcher, Lars Berglund, in particular has created a transparent wood composite that could be used as a stronger, more environmentally sustainable substitute for plastic and glass.

Berglund created a method that strips the lignin, a complex organic polymer that gives wood its brownish color, from thin strips of wood veneer that is then replaced with another polymer that makes the composite 85% transparent. This composite has the advantages of being biodegradable, environmentally friendly, strong, and durable like natural lumber while also letting in light making it the perfect material for transparent wood structures and load bearing windows that never break or shatter. Berglund also sees his composite replacing the chemically treated glass used for manufacturing solar panels making them more sustainable as well.

Other sources have stated that this composite may help reduce heating costs and lower fuel consumption due to wood’s advantageous natural insulation properties compared to glass which would revolutionize sustainable design concepts. I see it being used in multi-functional, adaptable facades making them even more efficient and successful. I also think this transparent wood composite would be a great replacement for plastic due to its biodegradability which would clean up our cities and oceans everywhere; however, I’m concerned with its affordability and ability to be mass-produced since glass and plastics are already widely used and relatively inexpensive. I’m also curious if the view, looking in and out, will be distorted if this composite is used for windows, nonetheless Berglund believes that he will be able to increase the transparency over time.

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