(NEXSTAR) – Wood products already make up the framing and possibly the siding of your home, but in our more energy-efficient future, you may be looking right through windows made from wood.
A division of the United States Department of Agriculture is developing a substitute for glass that could provide better insulation and other ecological benefits.
A team from the Forest Products Laboratory worked with scientists from the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado to create transparent wood. Their results were recently published in the Journal of Advanced Functional Materials.
“Researchers found that transparent wood has the potential to outperform glass currently used in construction in nearly every way,” the USDA said in an online posting about the development.
According to the agency, the transparent product is created when a fast-growing balsa tree is given an oxidizing bath that bleaches out visible color. The wood is then treated with a synthetic polymer that makes it appear virtually clear.
The result is a substance that bends or splinters instead of shattering. It can reportedly withstand much stronger impacts than glass and would reduce outside transmission of heat and air relative to existing window products, the USDA said.
It’s not immediately clear when such products could come to market, but the USDA says these tree-based windows would be compatible with modern construction equipment and could provide significant cost and energy savings over time.