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Wood is an essential part of the home. You can see them in your doors, walls, floors and many more. This is because it is not only made to last long; wood can be energy efficient as well. However, one main problem it has is that it cannot bring in natural light, as it is not transparent. Due to this, glass is used for windows and some portions of the door. A downside to using glass is that it needs to be double glazed before actually being energy efficient. 

Why wood isn’t transparent

Wood contains cellulose and lignin, both of which contribute to why wood is not transparent. Lignin absorbs light, and it has chromophores that are activated through the absorbed light which gives it its common brown colour. On top of that, wood is filled with cellulose, a hollow tubular structure that scatters light, which also prevents light from passing through the wood.

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How wood is made to be transparent

One of the main ideas to make the wood transparent is to remove the part which gives it the colour, the lignin. Some studies and experiments have ventured into this, however, they mostly involve harmful chemicals and can even weaken the structural integrity of the wood itself.

By far, the most effective way that has been found to make wood transparent is by using hydrogen peroxide and removing only the parts that give it colour. The hydrogen peroxide is brushed on the surface and exposed to a UV light simulating actual sunlight, Afterwards, the wood was soaked in ethanol, and then finally the pores were filled with clear epoxy. The resulting material is a product that allows 90% of the light to pass through, with even better structural integrity than when the lignin is completely removed.

Why transparent wood is a good alternative to glass

Wood has been around for a long time, and it has since been used to be more energy-efficient. While glass does let natural light in, it needs to be double-glazed to be energy-efficient. The possibility of using transparent wood in windows or door panels could do both effectively. It is a good insulator, but can also bring in natural light. Aside from that, transparent wood can also make way for architectural evolutions, such as creating structures or buildings that may mimic a house made of glass but with better stability than the glass itself, and with higher energy efficiency.

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Pieter Boyce - Wooden Window and door specialist

Pieter Boyce
Wooden Window and Door Specialist

This article was written on behalf of The Wooden Door Company by Pieter Boyce. Pieter has an intense passion for English Architectural history and has been specialising in the conservation of original wooden windows and doors for decades. His exceptional knowledge of timber windows and doors, both listed or non-listed, is attributed to his hands-on approach to learning all aspects of the complete restoration of original features as well as having personally surveyed thousands of items throughout his long tenure as a head surveyor for one of the largest window and door restoration companies in the UK. He now runs a boutique wooden window and door consultancy and fervently champions the retention of original windows and doors. To learn more of Pieter’s services, visit his website at www.boultonboyce.co.uk.