We often speculate where the next innovation in the window industry is going to come from. Often, we ask ourselves what may be the next mainstream window material to hit the industry. Well, if you listen to the guys and girls from KTH Royal Institute Technology in Stockholm, it could be transparent wood.

Nano technology

This wooden innovation has been reported in an article on wired.co.uk and they report that renewable wood can be produced by removing a material called lignin, this makes the wood white. Then, on a nano scale, a transparent polymer is added, and when the “optical properties are matched” the wood becomes transparent.

Click here to read the full Wired article

Now, if you go and read the article over and Wired and see the featured image that goes with that post, you’ll see that it’s not 100% clear. That’s why it has been advertised as transparent and not clear. So, what could a semi-clear window be used for?

Well, for a start, it should be stated that the transparent wood would have to be fixed within a frame material. It’s natural placement would be in a bathroom or other rooms that required privacy. They let light through good enough, according to the article, but is not clear, so maintains privacy. Great for bathrooms. But, those windows will still have to be opened.

In theory, if this sort of material could be produced in a similar fashion to modern IGUs, then it could be fitted in sealed unit form to PVCu, timber and aluminium windows and doors. Stick a spacer bar between two sheets of the material and there you have it.

The realities

Whilst the idea of this material is a novel one, and is a great demonstration of the capabilities of nano technology, in the real world this would not be a viable material in the glazing world.

For a start, although there are no figures mentioned, I imagine that the cost to create this kind of material will be very high. Producing this transparent wood will be hugely costly and would not be commercially viable, either in the commercial or residential sectors.

Also, when the development of existing glass products is as advanced as it has ever been, there appears very little reason to make this work. Unless when tested this transparent wood has an unknown yet amazing U-Value, noise reduction properties or some other reason that could revolutionise the glazing world, I cannot see why the industry would actually look at this as a viable product.

The Wired article also points out that transparent wood could also be used is solar technology, perhaps for use in solar panels. But again, the same argument above can be applied here. With solar tech becoming more and more advanced as each year passes, what reason would there be to abandon that route and turn to this instead.

So, to the guys and girls in Sweden, I would say, nice idea, great demonstration of the power of nano technology, but this is one that will remain in the novelty draw.

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